Tag Archives: YouTube

Social Media in the Syrian Uprising

In ‘Why the Syrian Uprising is the First Social Media War,’ Patrick Howell-O’Neill describes the role of social media in the Syrian War. This uprising can be classified as the first social media war because, as Howell-O’Neill explains, social media has played a pivotal role since 2005, used as a means of dispersing information and organizing dissent. Howell-O’Neill focuses mainly on the impact of video (YouTube and LiveLeak) and picture (Instagram) platforms in mobilizing support.

What is perhaps most interesting in the article is the acknowledgment of social media activity on both sides of the conflict. On the rebel side, citizens are filming and documenting the injustices done to them by Assad’s forces, then broadcasting this information to a larger and more influential global audience through YouTube, or other less-filtered social media sites. The article tells of a man who, severely injured by an errant airstrike, was asked to be filmed. “I’m sure they regarded me as a potential propaganda machine,” he later said. “People would often approach the camera and make speeches or cite ‘facts’ that were not verifiable.” This footage will be placed in a video campaign for mass distribution. In this way, it appears to me that rebel actors will sometimes use ‘shock’ media to draw individuals to their cause. This type of media is not concerned with the injured or killed individual but, rather, the alarming message that his or her wounds send, which is fundamentally an appeal to the humanity in anyone watching from abroad.

See a successful rebel video campaign, documenting a rebel victory at a government checkpoint here

Meanwhile, al-Assad has his own personal uses for social media. I have noticed that the first, and most notable, influence which al-Assad exerts over the sphere of social media is that of containment. The Syrian Electronic Army, charged with monitoring information in Syria, continues to deactivate rebel websites and publications, in order to control what the outside world sees. Furthermore, al-Assad uses Instagram to distribute his own message, including convenient euphemisms for what is happening on the ground and also pictures of rebel chemical weaponry usage online.

I think that the usage of social media in modern warfare is fascinating. This technology can greatly increase the global audience for either cause, whichever most effectively uses social media for its aims. What is perhaps most challenging, however, is sifting through all of the social media information and determining the accuracy of this information. With strong, sensationalist rhetoric coming from both sides of the conflict, who can one believe?

Read the article here.

Social Media — Helping and Hurting Egypt


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 and the Arab Spring: A New Revolution

This week in class, we discussed how social media can affect development. We examined how ordinary people were becoming activists during the Arab Spring through the use of social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. We also discussed how in Syria, ordinary citizens have transformed into amateur journalists through uploading content onto the internet. Upon examining these concepts further, I found this interesting YouTube video, that shows viewers how to livestream content with slow internet. 

The Arab Spring has created a new wave of internet content, that focuses social media in a way that is not merely for entertainment, but as a news source. Not only has this created new content, but it has globalized the protests in the Arab Spring. For example, famous activist/hacker group Anonymous helped keep the internet online in Syria, despite the Syrian government’s attempts to shut it down.

Social media has personalized the internet through adding a human factor that can connect millions of people from across the world, or just thousands in one country–as seen in the Arab Spring. This revolution of communication begs the question: what happens next?

Kony 2012: Social Media Impact One Year Later

In class, we discussed the countless positives that have resulted from the rapid use of social media, from the Arab Spring to inside leakage on corrupt regimes. We also, however, mentioned the negatives of social media, which were epitomized by the example of KONY 2012, the viral video produced by Invisible Children that topped 100 million views on YouTube.

The video that called for the arrest and international justice of the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army Joseph Kony was criticized on many different accounts: (1) it oversimplified a very complex issue (2) it advertised misleading & some arguably false accounts of the situation (for instance, Kony’s army by then was almost entirely in the DRC (3) it had paternalistic undertones and seemed to breed a new modern type of “trendy” colonialism (4) the organization was asking for funds that for the large part were not going to the cause at hand & (5) it put too much faith in the corrupt Ugandan government. The dangers of social media were beginning to emerge: the information was moving too rapidly for any of the misinformation to be cleared up and for American youth to comprehend that simply sharing a video would not solve the issue at hand and could be considered insulting to the population at hand.

So with all the backlash were there any positive outcomes?

Well, let’s get back to the negatives. There was an outrage from the Ugandan public after viewing the film, many of which went on to throwing rocks at Invisible Children members. The founder of the campaign was so overwhelmed by the criticism that he had a public breakdown (which likely would not have happened if the video hadn’t garnered such mass attention)

However, according to a LA blog (http://goo.gl/JPjUf), the viral video did elicit some of the anticipated outcomes (how much of which was actually the product of the short film is yet to be determined):

Two of the LRA’s top commanders have been removed from the battlefield and more fighters defected from the rebel group last year than in the previous three years combined, according to Invisible Children.

It’s ultimately up for everyone else to decide. Let me know what you think.

Meanwhile, the video that received a lot of attention and equivalent backlash was made into a non-stop online joke about the naivety of the American public.

Here are a few for your entertainment..


IICD: Radio and the Empowerment of Women

IICD or the International Institute for Communication and Development is a nonprofit that uses technology as a development tool and a one of their recent videos shed light on a new way of using radio. This video from their YouTube page, showed the implementation of a very interesting and innovative project. It is still surprising to think that women are denied a role or voice in politics and this video was an eye opening watch as is utilized the medium or radio to help inform women and get their opinions on local political issues.  It is very innovative to think that the people would rebroadcast previous stories in order to reach more individuals and increase awareness of issues that effect them.The use of radio, or traditional media as IICD refers to it, in development it closely related to the topics we discusses in class. This project in particular adds to Mary Myers article, “Why Radio Matters: making the case for radio as a medium for development.”







Charities and the Incorporation of Social Media

With the phenomenon of social media comes a number of innovative and inventive ways for it to be used by a variety of sources.  One of these groups that has begun to tap into how to use social media to expand its purposes is charities.  According to the Social Media Today article, charities have discovered a number of innovative ways to utilize social media websites, such as facebook and twitter, in order to further their aims.

  1. Tweet-a-Thons: A tweet-a-thon is when an organization asks its supporters to tweet as much as possible in a certain time period about their cause.  They hope that this will cause their organization to go viral, especially through the use of hashtags, as well as links to the organizations website.
  2. Facebook: Creating a page for an organization that a person can then “like” and interact with will encourage that person to then become more involved and aware in what the charity is doing.
  3. Youtube: A video on youtube that outlines and highlights the charities aims and goals can then be linked by supporters to other forms of social media, effectively spreading the word.

However, there can be a number of problems with this form of advertising for charities.  For instance, many people may believe that just because they are linking to the page of an organization, they are effectively helping.  However, this belief leads to problems for the organization, since they need this awareness to lead to donations.  Also, through posting on multiple sources, often the messages of these organizations can become skewed from their intention, since they have gone through so many different channels.

YouTube’s Rising Political Relevance

As we explored through our reading of Opening Closed Regimes; What Was the Role of Social Media During the Arab Spring? YouTube became a particularly important tool for spreading news and information of Egypt’s uprising the form of user-generated videos around the world. Research conducted through this work identifies the top viral videos as of June 2011. While it is difficult to quantify the exact impact of these videos on audiences, it can be seen that some images of suffering would have prompted protests and spurred protests and heightened moral outrage. After reading about the effect of these videos, I thought it might be interesting to explore some of the videos, as the article provides an appendix.

The video which received the most youtube attention is entitled:
The Most AMAZING video on the Internet #Egypt #jan25

Since  January 27, 2011 the video has received over 2,450,037 views (about 300,000 more since the publication of the article).
I was also very interested to see a note included below the video:

Important message to youtube and people who flag this video: If it gets flagged or removed , it will be uploaded 10 more times.

I found this somewhat threatening tone unique in the context of YouTube. The video intends to be taken seriously and capitalizes on the right of expression. The video contains powerful imagery, which is bolstered by the incorporation of sound. While the content is heavy, it is relatively easy to follow. It is laden with symbolism and the accessibility through YouTube helps reveal the way in which such a video is seen as a success. In order to draw a contrast across cultural contexts, I thought it would be interesting to look at the use of YouTube in our own county.

Internet campaigns are changing the face of politics.  According to Claire Caine Miller’s work. How Obama’s Internet Campaign Changed Politics, Mr. Obama’s 2008 campaign utilized YouTube for free advertising. Videos were seen as more effective than TV ads because viewers had chosen to watch them or had received them from a friend (via email) instead of having a TV show interrupted. As we have all seen in the recent campaign ICTs have played an increasingly more important role.

Social media platforms we have explored in class such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are growing rapidly as a source of political news. According to Journalism.org, the number of Americans who say they regularly go to these destinations to learn about the campaign has doubled since January of this year. Even with that increase, however, these leading social media platforms are still turned to by a relatively limited number of Americans, about 17% in all, when those who mentioned at least one of those platforms are combined.

The link between politics, governance, and YouTube is reshaping our world and the power of tools such as YouTube cannot be underestimated in the context of the developing world.