Social Media As A Tool For Protest

By Marko Papic and Sean Noonan

Internet services were reportedly restored in Egypt on Feb. 2 after being completely shut down for two days. Egyptian authorities unplugged the last Internet service provider (ISP) still operating Jan. 31 amidst ongoing protests across the country. The other four providers in Egypt — Link Egypt, Vodafone/Raya, Telecom Egypt and Etisalat Misr — were shut down as the crisis boiled over on Jan. 27. Commentators immediately assumed this was a response to the organizational capabilities of social media websites that Cairo could not completely block from public access.

The role of social media in protests and revolutions has garnered considerable media attention in recent years. Current conventional wisdom has it that social networks have made regime change easier to organize and execute. An underlying assumption is that social media is making it more difficult to sustain an authoritarian regime — even for hardened autocracies like Iran and Myanmar — which could usher in a new wave of democratization around the globe. In a Jan. 27 YouTube interview, U.S. President Barack Obama went as far as to compare social networking to universal liberties such as freedom of speech. [Read more…]

The Twitter Election? Not Likely.

There is much over-blown talk of new paradigms at the moment.

Before the 43rd Parliament has even met, the new political paradigm has been shown to be illusory. Standard politics continues apace. An old-fashioned deal has delivered us a minority government. Interest groups and political participants have begun positioning themselves to extract maximum advantage from the new Parliament.

Far from the political process becoming more open and transparent, it is more likely that backroom intrigue will flourish. Intricate deal-making seems set to reach new heights of ingenuity. The numerical permutations and combinations in both houses guarantee that practitioners of the so-called old paradigm will be called upon to ensure that things do not fall apart.

Another paradigm that has failed to materialise is the one that was supposed to deliver a “Twitter election” and usher in a new democracy powered by “social media”. Instead, the golden age of 140-character political participation has been clubbed to death by the established media and all but ignored by the main political parties. [Read more…]