Grass­roots or­ga­ni­za­tions us­ing Face­book to mo­bi­lize

Im­pact of gi­ant so­cial me­dia net­work

The Kurdish Globe - - EDITORIAL - Go­ran Sabah Ghafour

Poor coun­tries

(over 75,000 a year) use the in­ter­net more of­ten than those in lower in­come brack­ets,” sur­mis­ing that 95 per­cent of wealth­ier Amer­i­cans have ac­cess and are uti­liz­ing it.

Just as eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity is a caveat for pa­tron us­age, re­search also shows that in poorer coun­tries busi­nesses use so­cial me­dia less. A study from the pub­lic re­la­tions firm Bur­son-Marsteller shows that busi­nesses in Latin Amer­ica—a re­gion with

dis­mal ac­cess tube and oth­ers re­al­ize--the way a New York Times ar­ti­cle put it--“there may be 1.6 bil­lion peo­ple in the world with In­ter­net ac­cess, but fewer than half of them have in­comes high enough to in­ter­est ma­jor ad­ver­tis­ers.” Both the costs of ac­cess and con­nec­tiv­ity siphon out a dis­tinct tune in to­day’s global cho­rus of dig­i­tal ex­pres­sion.

The Mid­dle East

More and more peo­ple across the world are log­ging on and sign­ing in, with hardly a sec­ond thought for con­nec­tiv­ity and ac­cess. In

A Guardian ar­ti­cle showed that Youtube re­cently suf­fered cen­sor­ship in the Khabarovsk re­gion of East Rus­sia, where the Court ruled that it should be banned fol­low­ing the pub­lish­ing of an ex­trem­ist na­tion­al­ist video an act that caused out­rage amongst blog­gers. Yet, ac­cord­ing to a Spiegel On­line piece, Pres­i­dent Dmitry Medvedev blogs and has a Twit­ter ac­count, and is pub­licly an avid fan of the pos­si­bil­i­ties of so­cial me­dia.

In the Mid­dle East, re­pres­sive au­thor­i­ties are strug­gling to ar­rested and even ex­e­cuted for ex­press­ing their views on­line and that the government banned Face­book be­fore its June 12 pres­i­den­tial elec­tions be­cause op­po­si­tion can­di­dates were us­ing it to reach out to their sup­port­ers.

Other Coun­tries

The Next Web web­site re­ports that China’s Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army has banned all so­cial net­work­ing for its 2.5 mil­lion sol­diers. Wide­spread Youtube video reg­u­lat­ing and Face­book ban­ning have taken place re­cently in China. The government reg­u­lates so­cial me­dia ac­tiv­ity but as our speaker for the dig­i­tal sum­mit, Vicky Lu, pointed out, much of the West­ern me­dia cov­er­age ex­ag­ger­ates cen­sor­ship woes in China. With ac­cess, con­nec­tiv­ity and lib­erty lined up to serve so­cial me­dia users, what do they do with the op­por­tu­nity? This ques­tion led this report to ex­am­ine mea­sures of progress as out­comes of new me­dia en­gage­ment. The clear­est ex­am­ple of so­cial me­dia fos­ter­ing a glimpse of greater de­moc­ra­ti­za­tion was in the 2009 Ira­nian Elec­tion. The New York Times re­ported that the op­po­si­tion leader, Mir Hus­sein Mous­savi, had more than 50,000 mem­bers on his Face­book fan page. And most know about what the Times called a cliché ti­tle of a “Twit­ter Rev­o­lu­tion” that spurred mass demon­stra­tions in Tehran. An­other Times ar­ti­cle ti­tled “Protests in Moldova Ex­plode, With Help of Twit­ter,” ex­plained the use of so­cial me­dia to mo­bi­lize Moldovan youth to protest against the coun­try’s Com­mu­nist lead­er­ship. Ex­am­ples of sim­i­lar po­lit­i­cal em­pow­er­ment have also been seen in Venezuela, as a dig­i­tally-savvy youth emerged to take gov­er­nance griev­ances against Pres­i­dent Hugo Chavez to the streets.

Pos­si­bly the most in­ter­est­ing ex­am­ple of progress coming from to­day’s bur­geon­ing dig­i­tal phe­nom­e­non ap­peared in Mex­ico. Af­ter re­search­ing that coun­try’s cit­i­zen use of Twit­ter as a se­cu­rity sound-off against vi­o­lent nar­co­traf­fick­ers, CNN cor­re­spon­dent Nick Va­len­cia, spoke on his re­port­ing south of the bor­der. He wrote in a March 2010 ar­ti­cle that “re­ports of brazen gun­bat­tles through­out [Reynosa] sur­faced al­most minute-by-minute.” Res­i­dents use hash­tags to fo­cus their tweet con­tent on spe­cific ar­eas or oc­cur­rences of vi­o­lent con­flict. This dis­cov­ery was the most as­ton­ish­ing, putting res­i­dents in the driver seat of their own se­cu­rity sys­tem, open­ing up numer­ous pos­si­bil­i­ties for safety in ar­eas of the world where au­thor­i­ties can’t ad­e­quately quell vi­o­lence.

How­ever, the fate of free ac­cess to this ser­vice in Mex­ico is still to be de­cided. A bill was pro­posed in Mex­i­can leg­is­la­ture to ban Twit­ter and other so­cial me­dia out­lets, in re­sponse to con­cerns that nar­co­traf­fick­ers them­selves were also us­ing the site for co­or­di­na­tion. Far­ther south in Latin Amer­ica, an­other por­trait of devel­op­ment was seen as a by-prod­uct of so­cial me­dia pro­lif­er­a­tion. Ecuador barely averted a mil­i­tary coup on its sit­ting head-of-state, Rafael Cor­rea, in Oc­to­ber of 2010, re­ported NPR. De­vel­op­ments of the coup at­tempt, many of which aided de­ci­sions on how to stop it, were tweeted by res­i­dents and jour­nal­ists in the area. This ad­vance­ment in by-the-sec­ond com­mu­ni­ca­tion of po­lit­i­cal events came as a breath of fresh air in Latin Amer­ica, a re­gion his­tor­i­cally marred by cor­rupt pol­i­tics and opaque in­sti­tu­tions.

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