Social Media for Dissent
This post ties more into the action part of the last post. As I mentioned, social media can only create a real change when people take some action. The most obvious example of active dissent is the ongoing Arab Spring, and now the events in Thailand.
Social media is an obvious tool for dissent. It allows users to broadcast current locations, plan events and quickly update other members of a situation. It helps active people to accomplish things in a way that texting, emailing or calling never could.
Dissent isn’t always widespread. A Kuwaiti teen was sent to prison for insulting the Prophet. In an Islamic nation, this would be considered small-scale dissent because of the theocratic government. If people in Kuwait wanted religious freedom, they would have to move beyond digital activism and into physical action as their sister nations did. This is not likely to happen in many of the theocratic nations.
Saudi Arabian women have used social media to protest laws against women driving. This provides a voice for women who aren’t normally allowed to congregate in public or meet with men not in their families.
In Thailand, protestors have been tweeting and Instagramming in the hundreds of thousands. ZocialEye.com, an analyst website, took snapshots of the events and reactions by dissenters. In response to an Amnesty bill, protestors changed their profile pictures. It would be hard to find anything beyond correlation with the actual protests. I think this may be a first for picture changes to actually make a difference. Har har.
Some governments even spam or flood social media feeds to prevent movements from being seen. This presents an issue in nations where dissenters rely on social media to communicate. Messages can be overpowered and lost in the flood.
In a way, mainstream media censored dissent in Chicago, 2012. Social media spread pictures and videos of thousands of protestors, but mainstream media largely neglected to show the scale. This American dissent was a step above the previous occupy movement, but received less attention.
The most important aspect of social media as a tool for dissent is the speed at which a post occurs and spreads. This makes it difficult for large, clunky, centralized governments to react and easy for small, organic, decentralized groups to organize.
I think social media will continue to play an important role in dissent not only against governments but also against mainstream media outlets. This is especially so when those outlets are part of an authoritarian model with government at the helm.
Citizen journalism is a form of rebellion against “professional” journalists. I hope to touch back on this later.