Posts Tagged ‘facebook’

Social Media leads 21st Century Global Revolutions

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

Hosni Mubarak should have given me a call on January 25. His mistake.

But if he had, I would have told him something Joss Whedon already made perfectly clear in Serenity: “you can’t stop the signal.”

Actually if Mubarak had called Beijing, Tehran or Rangoon he would have heard much the same message. Sure governments can still limit communications capabilities, but the measures are temporary stop gaps at best. Time and time again over the last two years, popular uprisings have found ways to sidestep official controls and use the Internet to get their messages out to the world.

The message hasn’t always achieved the desired results – think crackdown Iran, think crackdown Burma – but as we have seen in Egypt and across the Arab world over the last month, technology (and social media, in particular) is the revolution weapon of choice for the 21st century. There is real power there.

Truth be told all it takes to galvanize international support and drive a movement is a few enterprising individuals. In the case of Egypt the tweets and Facebook updates of a small group of Egyptians sparked a massive worldwide explosion of support with the #Jan25 and #Egypt hashtags that overwhelmed the social media airwaves virtually non-stop until Hosni Mubarak announced his departure on Feb. 11.

Bloggers picked up the call. Journalists covering the protests tweeted instant updates. Major media outlets continue to produce in-depth packages on the influence of social media and the Internet. And when the Egyptian government attempted to shut down those inside the country, Internet giant Google stepped in to lend a hand. Google teamed up with Twitter to run a voice-to-tweet service that allowed Egyptians to call into international numbers and leave voicemail messages that software then translated into tweets with the hashtag #egypt.

And while it is most certainly people – not technology – that drives the campaigns, social media has emerged as potent weapon.

“Egypt made a radical maneuver, ultimately counterproductive, trying to cut access …but when you are willing to dismantle your country’s entire communication network in an attempt to quiet people you are really scared,” says John Perry Barlow, political activist and fellow emeritus of Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

Barlow, like many observers, believes technology is causing a paradigm shift in traditional power structures.

“We’re witnessing revolutions that are self-organizing, without central leadership, and that is all a direct result of technology.”

Social media is now being used by protesters in Bahrain, Libya, Iran, Jordan and elsewhere to reach out across social and economic boundaries to build broad coalitions of diverse people united around a common cause.

In countries with mammoth ruling systems in place, like Libya or Syria, shutting down the Internet – at least partially or temporarily – can forestall large public movements. And while Chinese authorities have been able to fight off massive political unrest by pushing rapid economic development for millions of Chinese, activism and unrest are growing there too.

As we’re seeing in Libya not all ruling systems will be as mature about stepping down in the face of the flood as the Mubarak regime was. Leaders like Muammar Gaddafi will fight – unfairly and with little regard for the lives being destroyed – to cling to the old systems.

But for every individual that falls, dozens more around the world will pick up the call and blast the information across the Internet keeping the eyes of the world on any abuses perpetrated against people raising their voices for change ….and that is a power greater than any gun, goon or jail cell.

Social Media: More than Just Fun

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Several times over the last couple months I’ve commented here about the power of social media to bring people together around campaigns – raising awareness for Rare Disease Day, help for Haiti after the Jan. 12 earthquake, saving a favorite television show with #Heroes100. It’s a fun, easy, almost magical way to take action on the causes that matter most to you. In a few short seconds you can reach out to thousands of individuals – something that even ten years ago was almost unthinkable.

But what happens when that cause is your very survival? What happens when social media is something more than just fun — a means for isolated individuals to reach out to the world beyond their sickbed, wheelchair or hospital room?

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Systematic Failure: Wal-Mart gets it right?!? Whodda thunk?!?

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

 With a black man holding the highest office in the land you would think America is past the race-bashing hate-mongering crap that has crippled us from within for the last 200 years or so. Sadly two recent very public events provide more evidence than I really wanted of the cancer that continues to infect our society.

This past weekend protesters associated with the “Tea Party” camped out in front of the U.S. Congress to express their dismay with proposed health care reform – exercising a constitutional right to activism and turning it into a sad public display of small-minded foolishness.

They spat at Congressmen. They hurled racial-slurs at the gay and black communities.

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New Media: The good, the bad, and the downright ugly

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

Over the span of the last two weeks we have witnessed both the power and the folly of new media.

The blogosphere, twitterverse and other online forums proved to be effective rapid-reaction communications tools when a massive earthquake devastated Haiti on Jan. 12. Outside Haiti, the Internet exploded with posts and tweets providing donation information, suggestions to help people search for loved ones and heartfelt entreaties to lend a helping hand. From inside Haiti survivors tweeted eyewitness accounts and offered to help locate loved ones, uploaded information to MySpace, YouTube and Facebook.

Did all this online activity dig people out from under collapsed buildings? Did it put bandages on bleeding wounds? No, of course not.

But it did provide an almost immediate platform for people to come together, share information and reach out with compassion and do what they could to help Haiti.

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Changing Reality: Social Networks Power Up Change

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

When electoral authorities declared Iran’s incumbent Mahmoud Ahmedinejad winner of June 2009 presidential elections the power of technology and social networks became front page news around the world. Six months later the power of these new tools to influence the hearts and minds of users around the world is definitively a mainstream concept – and is attracting attention from policymakers.

 Iran’s opposition politicians and their supporters rallied to oppose the controversial election, using Twitter networks to inform people in and outside Iran of demonstration plans. As authorities blocked an increasing number of websites and prevented most journalists from reporting out of Tehran, protestors and their online supporters set up proxies to help those inside Iran continue using Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social networking sites to sidestep official censorship.

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