Protests and Social Media
Posted by Allison Fine on March 20, 2008
In the Spring of 2006 I watched people of all ages and colors walk down the streets of San Francisco in protest of US immigration policies. I commented on the marches here on NPR and wrote about it here as well. The essence of the commentary then was how the array of new social media tools were being used to publicize and recruit marchers. As I wrote then:
The immigration marches have been an amazing display of the variety of ways that social media can be used to organize, connect and increase the “stickiness” of an event afterwards (meaning that the event lives on in cyberspace and allows others, who were and were not there, to discuss, relive, analyze and debate it far longer than was possible with traditional media.)
Yesterday was the fifth anniversary (that can’t be the best word to mark a milestone tied to such a shameful event) of the start of the Iraq war. Protest marches happened across the country, and again San Francisco was the center of the intersection of civil protest and social media. But this time a new tool was introduced, Twitter. Like Jeff Jarvis (read it here
) I was an initial skeptic of Twitter, it seemed too cute, just another way for Millennials to announce themselves to the world – whether we want or need to know where exactly they are at any moment in time. But, as described here
on Wired, Twitter played a critical role in helping to organize protesters throughout the day:
“What’s new in the last four years is the addition of the text messaging,” says Taylor. “In the past, (street protest organizers) have had walkie-talkies out there and a bullhorn, but the people with the radios would always get arrested by the police.”
Twitter allows participants to opt-in to the protest and enables the organizing body to move people around quickly and quietly. It isn’t a brand new development as much as a continuation and advancement on the pathway of self-organizing started with the social media revolution. It worked in San Francisco, it also works in Kenya, Tibet (fyi, Witness is doing an amazing job of posting videos chronicling the protests in Tibet here
) and other dangerous places where cell phones are critically important to connecting and organizing citizens.
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