Last week most people would not have been able to piece together a cohesive description of Uganda war lord, Joseph Kony. Today, as a result of Facebook and Twitter, most are well acquainted with Kony and the terrorist organization he heads, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The movement to educate the world on Joseph Kony's crimes against humanity have gained positive momentum and support but have also received flak from skeptics.
The widely popular 30 minute video entitled “KONY 2012” was uploaded to YouTube and Vimeo on March 5th and has been shared, liked, tweeted and re-posted millions of times. The non-profit organization who created the video, Invisible Children, hoped to educate the world on the now notorious war criminal and bring him to justice.
Kony was indicted for his crimes by the International Criminal Court in The Hage, Netherlands in 2005 but has since evaded capture. Since the video has gone viral, there has been an estimated 9.5 million tweets including the word Kony and may be the fastest growing viral video to date. According to Jason Russell, the co-founder of Invisible Children, the campaign raised $5 million in the first 48 hours.
There are two opposing opinions on utilizing social media tools for protest. Social media is accessible on any phone with a data plan making sites like Twitter a place to organize, update and mobilize support in a faster fashion than ever before. With the use of hashtags, tweeters have the advantage of following up-to-the-minute information via tweet, video, links and photographs. Users are able to re-tweet to a wider audience and in some instances tweets are transmitted to large publications and news agencies. Many news programs now report happenings on Twitter, and urge viewers to follow hashtags of importance.
While this micro-blogging site is doing wonders for co-ordination in times of chaos, one drawback of live feed is that opponents are able to keep up with new meeting places and police activities. During the 2009 G20 Summit in London England, police monitored sites like Twitter and Facebook weeks before the meetings began in hopes of staying one step ahead of protestors.
After officials disrupted Facebook, Twitter and Blackberry Messenger services during the early days of the Egyptian Revolution, Barack Obama famously called upon Egypt to reverse their, “interference with access to the Internet, with cellphone service and to social networks that do so much to connect people in the 21st century.”
3 Movements shaped by Twitter
Political: Egyptian Revolution
And above all, we saw a new generation emerge — a generation that uses their own creativity and talent and technology to call for a government that represented their hopes and not their fears; a government that is responsive to their boundless aspirations. One Egyptian put it simply: Most people have discovered in the last few days…that they are worth something, and this cannot be taken away from them anymore, ever. – Barak Obama
When anti-government protests began in Egypt on January 25th, 2011 over unemployment and government corruption issues, thousands of citizens marched towards downtown Cairo to demonstrate.
When rallies began to spread countrywide, protest organizers relied heavily on social media sites to create rally points, coordinate activity, keep in touch with loved ones, document police brutality via video and photos. Millions of people around the world kept their eyes on Twitter feeds for up to the minute information; those who lent a kind word of support to the protestors empowered the people of the movement.
Two days after the rallying began, Facebook, Twitter and Blackberry Messenger services were disrupted. The following day Internet and mobile phone text message users also reported major disruption to services as the country prepared for a new wave of protest. The Egyptian president followed implementations set previously by Pakistan and Iran to block all social media sites to curb the uprising and take the power away from the people. Unfortunately for Mubarak, key deciders and supporters from around the world already heard the cry of the Egyptian people.
Economical: Occupy Wall Street
#OWS is fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations. The movement is inspired by popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, and aims to expose how the richest 1% of people are writing the rules of an unfair global economy that is foreclosing on our future. – ows.org
A movement proposed by Adbusters along with the hashtag #occupywallstreet, asked the “99%” to protest Wall Street behavior during an economic crisis where the majority of Americans are jobless, broke, in debt and cannot afford healthcare. In a culture saturated with social media, it was obvious that sites like Twitter would be used in the same way as the Egyptian movement: to activate, educate and organize. Like any effort that heavily relies on technology, key players and inside information were permeated. On October 15th Gawker released an exclusive story on a New York security consultant named Thomas Ryan who infiltrated one of the main Occupy Wall Street internal mailing groups and handed over the information to authorities and corporations which had been targeted by protestors to discredit the movement.
Culture: Team Coco
"I know what you guys are thinking: 'Hey, it's the guy from Twitter.” – Conan O’Brien
While it may not be the most essential movement in the history of demonstrations, it did change the way we feel about our week night talk show hosts. When Conan refused to take the later time slot on NBC after being given The Tonight Show back in 2009, all hell broke loose on the internet and thousands began defending the redhead’s honor, while bashing Jay Leno’s quest for a time slot which (eventually) secured him better ratings. When the tongue in cheek hashtag #teamcoco became a trending topic, social media analysts pointed out that Twitter sentiment for NBC became tremendously negative as the days went on. The movement was becoming anti-NBC rather than Pro Conan. And, as if it was a political movement, people began protesting outside the Universal Studios lot, Conan’s old studio at 30 Rockafeller as well as Chicago and Seattle. “The Internet has a way of making people a little more brave, and a bit more outspoken,” said Mr. Mitchell, the designer of the famous Team Coco illustration. Eventually, Conan found a home on TBS and still has a very prominent presence on the internet.