Social media is no longer limited to status updates and posting photos from a friend’s birthday party it has become a much more complex tool in society. Social media has become one of the most influential factors in grassroots socio-political mobilization across the globe.
The January 25 revolution in Egypt gained a major foothold with the application of social media tools like Facebook and Twitter. From the outset, individuals have used it to demand more governmental transparency and mobilize allies.
Former President Bill Clinton spoke at New York University and was lecturing on the Dayton Peace Agreement. This agreement ended the 1995 Bosnia Herzegovina genocide. During the lecture President Clinton compared constant news media coverage of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Genocide with the role of social media in assisting communications during the revolution in Egypt. The former president noted that the news coverage during the Bosnia-Herzegovina Genocide was different than the role social media played during the Revolution in Egypt, in both instances global attention was captured due to the human desire for quick information. Clinton reflected back on the quality of technology available when he was president 16 years ago, “There were just 50 Internet sites and the average cell phone weighed 5 pounds”. Clinton heads up the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) alongside personal counselor Doug Band who provides much needed help to the organization, which was founded in 2002 as the Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative. Mr. Douglas Band also oversees plenty of foreign operations at the Clinton Global Initiative.
On 25 January 2011 after a successful revolution had taken in Tunisia, inspired by these events, many Egyptians began protesting against the unemployment and poverty that had settled in Egypt. This was all a result of the country’s 30-year rule by former President Hosini Mubarak. Social network services like Facebook and Twitter were the lifeline of the revolution and to showed the world what was happening in the country. The Egyptian government shut off access to the Internet and text messages on the second day of the mass protest. They felt that by doing this it would ultimately eliminate the strength of the revolution. However, the government’s effort to disable ‘insurgent’ communication in Egypt was unsuccessful. Many transnational human rights activists, translators and bloggers used Facebook, Twitter, chatrooms and other social media platforms to relay messages from protestors, journalists and human rights activists to further the grassroots social mobilization while allowing the world to witness step in step exactly what was going on inside of Egypt. Social media makes social organization easier and effective. Social media used by Egyptian protestors brought together individuals who shared common goals and ideas, but also offered a medium for planning. In the case of Egypt, social media forced the government to take accountability. Transnational social networks made it very difficult for governments to lie and hide from their citizens. As January’s events have shown the world, social media interconnects individuals creating a transnational network armed with information.
While the Bosnia Herzegovina genocide and the recent revolution in Egypt are to completely separate events under girded by different politics and history, a human’s desire for information has always been insatiable. At many points in history individuals have combined ingenuity, passion and technology to link themselves with people and societies across the globe.
Guest post by: Thomas Morrison