Social Media as Online Activism

On Sept 18, organized a global tweet chat on “online activism and the use of social media in times of crisis.” People from different time zones participated in the session.

The discussions concerned how social media has been used during a crisis. Participants from Turkey and Bangladesh shared that social media played a powerful role in mobilizing and motivating people during crises or political unrest. In Turkey, the government closed Twitter operations for a time to stop an anti-government movement.

In Bangladesh, at one point Facebook played a strong role in gathering people’s opinions about the ongoing trial of war criminals. Facebook escaped a shutdown in Bangladesh, but YouTube did not. It was forced to suspend service in  order to quell public reaction when a controversial movie on Prophet Muhammad — Innocence of Muslims — was released in 2012.

In the midst of the discourse, a participant brought up the issue of integrity in social media. False information can misdirect  the public and cause greater harm. Censorship and maintaining integrity in social media emerged as the two major concerns during a crisis.

In developing countries, the government has the power to close any social media outlet at any time. People’s right to information is not protected as it is Western countries. A gatekeeper is necessary to balance the dichotomy. But the question is when?  When will developing countries of the world get the full benefit of social media in times of crisis?

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2 Responses to Social Media as Online Activism

  1. Katlyn Orton says:

    I really liked this article because it is something that I think will be a big issue in the not-so-distant future. I personally think that social media during a crisis is a great tool — when used properly. I usually get all of my news and updates from Twitter specifically because it is instant as well as gives you the ability to see many people’s opinions instead of a single author of an article or a broadcast from a single news station. But, unfortunately, many people end up abusing this power. It could be because of pressure, unreliable sources or maybe even simple boredom, but we have seen case after case of wrong reporting in social media, as you stated. For example, the Sandy Hook shooter was originally identified using his brother’s name instead of his own, which caused unnecessary issues.

    With that being said, I do think it really is unfair to censor social media from people. To be completely honest, these people most likely already formed their opinions and if censored from Twitter or Facebook, will probably find another outlet or another way to express their feelings. Yes, social media may be aiding them right now, but I can almost guarantee that if a person feels that passionately about an issue, shutting down their social media isn’t going to stop them. Your question as to when these developing countries will get full access to social media really just depends on the countries and their own laws and rules. At the end of the day, social media is simply a tool that is helping bring people together that I think does more good than harm, therefore it isn’t right to shut it down.

  2. Fernando Aguilar says:

    Social media has indeed played a big role in political action around the world but for good and for bad. The platform is there and it depends on users how it is going to affect certain societies.

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