Tag Archives: Twitter

#hastag Activism: Does it Work?

Twitter has been widely credited with being a driving force in the Arab Spring uprisings of the early 2010s and for good reason – twitter allows individuals to rapidly disseminate information and to spread opinions and views quickly. While few dispute its previous impact on international events, does twitter activism work when it comes to less dire circumstances?

Recently, noted comedian Stephen Colbert came under fire for an incentive and out-of-context tweet regarding asians. A twitter fire-storm ensued, with #CancelColbert trending across the nation. Ultimately, Colbert’s show was not effected in the slightest – he was even given a promotion to replace David Letterman on The Late Show on CBS.

What does this say about Twitters influence on activism. The Wall Street Journal claimed that “Twitter may be the most powerful amplifier for individual voices that history has ever produced” but then acknowledged that its 140-character limit can be its biggest downfall. In the case of the Colbert situation, in which the original quote was taken out of context from a joke poking fun at the Washington Redskins, this was certainly the case. #Hastag activism will continue to be a driving force in world events, yet its lack of depth may inhibit the proper amounts of information to be spread


Is Turkey’s Twitter Ban Really a Legal Issue?

“Twitter, mwitter! We will wipe out roots of all” —  Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Prime Minister of Turkey

The Turkish government banned Twitter, YouTube and Vimeo on Thursday, March 20th, after the social media network had been used to disseminate recordings of telephone conversations and disclosed documents that appeared to incriminate government officials and some of their family members and associates in a extensive corruption investigation.  The Twitter block occurred 10 days prior to local elections.

After trying to reason with Twitter and get the company to remove content, the government issued a statement describing Twitter’s lack of cooperation and the possibility of a ban going forward. Many Twitter users reported blockages on Twitter immediately and others quickly advertised websites to circumnavigate the block.

While some may say that the Twitter ban is a matter of national security, others see this as just one of many examples of Turkey becoming increasingly intolerant of free speech. Government believes that because companies like Twitter and YouTube are international companies, they have to respond in accordance with the individual countries customs and culture. Turkish government is of the belief that they have the right to maintain the dignity of individuals, and if social media compromises dignity, they can interfere.  This is an interesting statement on social media and the permanency of the Internet. Government opponents reject this explanation as they use it to organize, and saw the ban as a way to prevent them from voicing their opinions and decimating the leaked data and information prior to the elections. So, is ban on Twitter really a legal issue? Well, I would say that while it halted some of the citizens’ ability to organize and share information, many were able to get around the blocked site and accomplish what they had hoped to. At the same time, I believe that the reasoning being used to describe the government’s actions is unfair and is certainly in violation of human rights.


SOS via SMS

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“I want to draw your attention to a gap that exists today between the public’s use of social media in a disaster and the ability of disaster response organizations and relief agencies to act on that information.” In a testimony to Congress in 2011, Suzy DeFrancis, Chief Public Affairs Officer of the American Red Cross, brings to light a key issue area in current disaster relief strategy. The potential value of social media during disaster situations is enormous, more and more often people are using social media outlets such as Twitter or Facebook to alert others of their well-being (or not) and whereabouts immediately after a disaster. While social media may not be accessible to some in lesser developed countries, mobile phones and texting is almost an universal function that is available globally. The 2010 Emergency Social Data Summit at the American Red Cross identified key benefits and challenges associated with the use of texting in a disaster situation. Their report identified texting as the most accessible technology across socio-economic groups. Furthermore, texting costs less and requires less bandwidth then say a phone call, a tweet, or a Facebook post.

A priority of disaster response is making the situation less chaotic. By encouraging citizens participation and empowering people to contribute to the relief effort on the ground, a sense of order and accomplishment can be achieved. Using text messages to send out information about shelters, food and water resources, or first aid stations could save precious time and help agencies efficiently distribute their resources. FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate emphasizes the importance of enabling people to see themselves as survivors, not victims, of a disaster. Social media and text messaging could be a viable means for empowerment. Citizen reporting can be extremely useful and is sometimes the only information aid agencies have available, yet presents the following challenges: (1) Misinformation (2) Overwhelming the system (3) Language (4) Platform Failure. In order to overcome these challenges the public must be educated on the appropriate manner in which to contact aid agencies before a disaster, so as to manage the response expectations. Furthermore, one single agency or social media platform should not be responsible for all requests; a collaborative effort is much less vulnerable to shocks and unprecedented failures. The potential technology has to coordinate relief efforts and save lives is astounding, aid agencies simply must keep up with technological advances while staying in tune with public use. 


The Role of Social Media in Protests in Argentina

Argentina has quickly become one of the countries with the highest social media use. It is currently ranked at #3 in the world in terms of hours spent on social media every month. According to a recent article published on Latin Link, for every 8 minutes spent on the Internet, 3.5 of those are spent on social media (statistics from comScore & Brandemia). Changes can be seen not only in the social sphere, but also in the political sphere thanks to this rapid increase in social media use.

A series of protests in November 2012 and April 2013 in Argentina were the result of organizers taking to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Discontent with President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner had been building and the people chose to use these sites as an organizing tool. This has been seen in a number of political movements in recent years. Without Facebook and Twitter there is doubt that the protests would have been as large or as widespread. Protests in the city of Buenos Aires were coordinated with protests in other cities on the same days. Facebook and Twitter were crucial to this coordination. It will be interesting to see how social media use continues to impact the political landscape in Argentina.


Social Media — Helping and Hurting Egypt

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While social media can play a big role in a revolution, it also has the ability to be detrimental to a population. This has been seen in Egypt, where social media such as Facebook and Twitter originally allowed people to find out about mass rallies and provided platforms for their ideas. However, now social media has provided a platform for rumors and creating anger in the population.

Facebook, Twitter, and even Youtube have become platforms for false reports in order to create anger in the population. There have been anonymous posts done to incite violence between groups in the population, such as Muslims against the Christians and vice versa. On Facebook and Twitter there have been posts such as “security forces are firing on unarmed protesters” or “Muslims are attacking the Christians”. While these were later found to be false, the social media platforms were able to get large groups of people to certain areas to direct their anger at the other group. There have even been Youtube videos posted to create the same sort of anger. They would use old videos out of context to make it seem worth fighting over. For example, a video posted in 2011 showed an Egyptian policeman throwing a protestors body into a rubbish heap resulted in public outrage. However, it was later discovered that the incident hadn’t even taken place in Egypt. Since the Internet is not as widely checked as other media sources, such as TV or radio, it makes it easier for people to use them in negative ways.

Social media has the potential to be a revolutionary tool. However, if not used correctly, it can create more problems than solutions. People want their freedom of expression and therefore wouldn’t agree to social media being regulated. That means that there is no way to know if what you are reading is credible, unless it is from a credible source. Since anyone has the ability to post on the Internet, it is important for people to take the information with a grain of salt.

Read the article here.


Social Media in the 2013 Brazilian Protests

This week in class, we have talked about the power of social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook in fostering revolutionary activity, especially during the Arab Spring. According to the study done by Howard et. al., social media helped shape political debates in the Arab Spring and discussions on sites such as Facebook often immediately preceded major protests on the ground. Use of social media also helped garner international support for the movements in the Middle East. An interesting case to compare to the Arab Spring is the recent protests in Brazil that have actively used social media, especially Twitter and Facebook. The protests started when the government raised bus fares in some of Brazil’s major cities, but soon spread to critiquing other issues, especially the government’s excessive spending building massive stadiums for the upcoming World Cup and Olympic Games in Brazil. The protesters are mostly middle-class, educated, and under the age of 30. It is interesting to compare these protests to the Arab Spring because they have used social media in similar ways. Like the Arab Spring movement, young Brazilian protesters have used social media sites to coordinate events and spread their message internationally. However, unlike the Arab Spring, the Brazilian protests are not directed against any one leader in particular and their demands are not as concrete. In an NBC News article, Caroline Stauffer reports that social media has not only helped coordinate the actions of the Brazilian protesters, but it has only splintered the movement in some ways. She cites the fact that the movement has no clear leadership. Social media allows these young protesters to coordinate anonymously and without a defined group of people at the head of the movement. This has caused some confusion within the movement, and some of the protests have turned violent, with police using tear gas and rubber bullets to stop demonstrators. I think that this case is especially interesting because it shows that social media can be a democratic way to organize protests and spread a message, but that it also has the potential to fragment a movement due to a lack of a clear leadership base or concrete demands. Social media is a very new tool in organizing revolutions, and it is important to take into account all of its possible advantages and disadvantages.

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Can Social Media Help Build Up Governments and Nations?

This week in class we discussed social media and how it has the ability to help create real change. One example which we discussed was how social media, especially facebook and twitter, were utilized during the Arab Spring. We discussed how social media was able to change the speed and nature of this revolution. Ideas were spread more rapidly and reached a broader base of people. Everyone with access to a computer or Smartphone was able to share their ideas through the use of twitter and facebook. In the Arab Spring, specifically, social media was able to spread democratic ideas across borders, shape political debates and a large usage of online resources often preceded major events which happened on the ground. In these ways, social media played a large role in the Arab spring.

But the real question is can social media play a role in building up nations and governments, specifically Arab governments which have just been overthrown. The article in the Huffington Post titled Social Media Can Help Build Arab Governments Too states that “the Internet offers a new platform for people to collaborate and think seriously about what kind of government they want. Enabling people to discuss political issues openly, without fear of retribution from the top, would help to build the active political culture that is vital for a workable democracy. It’s an essential first step toward an election, and along the way it can bring into the discussion people who have been excluded so far.”  Like during the Arab Spring, the internet and social media sites can be used as a tool to mobilize the people and involve more people than ever before.

The article then proposes an idea of how social media could help build up a nation, specifically Egypt. It states that Arab speaking scholars would use radio, twitter, facebook and television to discuss different types of democracy and governments around the world and the advantages and disadvantages of each system. Then using social media, all Egyptians could post their thoughts on which type of government they believe would be best for Egypt. Although this might not come up with a perfect solution, it would allow the public to be more informed and allow them become more involved. It would allow the public to have an open dialogue about what form of government would be most successful in Egypt. It will be interesting to see if this becomes a system which is actually used and whether is creates successful, positive change.

For the full article click here