How Social Media is Fueling Protests around the WorldBy Rosa Lewis on Wed, 07/03/2013 - 15:58
It is not a coincidence that the protests in Bulgaria, Brazil, Egypt and Turkey are all happening at once. They are incredibly similar; led by the newly middle-class and set off by a seemingly small catalyst, whether it be bus prices or a disapproved of new member of Government staff.
Protests and revolution are, of course, not new, but the way we are seeing the current set of events unfold is. Middle class people own smartphones and laptops and also know how to use that to their power. Here we take a look at how people have been taking to social media as well as to the streets to protest against their governments.
The protests started when the government tried to impose a media mogul as its head of National Security. Demonstrations have been arranged on Facebook. Lots of Bulgarian people are tweeting in English, to gain international support for their cause, but also to reach out to people campaigning elsewhere in Turkey and Brazil.
This time around protesters have honed their social media skills and are using it more than they did two years ago. They want to topple the democratically elected President, for failing to address economic and security problems. They have the backing of the military, who plan to carry out a coup if he doesn’t resign.
Aware of the damage Twitter and Facebook can do, President Morsi has also taken to social media, sending out a defiant tweet that he won’t resign, which has been retweeted by supporters over 12,000 times.
Putting up bus and metro prices was the final straw for residents of Sao Paolo, who were already sick of the government’s corruption, high taxes and prioritising spending on the upcoming World Cup and Olympics over public services.
Hundreds of thousands of people responded to Facebook invites and took to the streets. Images of how the protesters were treated, such as a video of military police launching tear gas into a large crowd of people singing the Brazilian national anthem, reached the world via social media, which ensured that the Brazilian President was quick to jump to protect his people before the situation got worse. He has said the protesters are proof of a vibrant democracy and has acknowledged their grievances.
In Turkey, protesters first turned out in May to oppose the government’s plan to redevelop Gezi Park, an urban park next to Istanbul's Taksim Square. Police responded with a brutal crackdown, but one of the biggest media blackouts in Turkish history couldn’t stop the news of it spread. Protesters took to social media to personally tell their story to the world.
The Hashtag is Mightier than the Tear Gas
Demonstrators have won the hearts of the world while the President continues to stumble through making one bad public announcement after another. The most recent is openly discussing regulating access to Facebook and Twitter in Turkey. He has missed the point and the unstoppable social media path that he is trying to halt emerged because of restrictions similar to the ones they are trying to apply. With the fast moving world of the internet, he is bound to fail.