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Can Social Media Remake Governments?

Posted by TeamITI on April 15, 2010

Social media is having an impact in some of the most restrictive areas of the world – countries whose broadbrand, IT and other related infrastructure is lacking compared to Western standards. But this embrace of social media by political activists – both local and global – is not happening on a uniform basis. In short, it is being used to great affect in one country and hardly at all in another.

Caught on YouTube

Consider the recent arrest of Taj al-Sair – a political dissident in Sudan. It was videotaped by a supporter and posted on YouTube, according to the Globe & Mail. The video has been watched more than 15,000 times in the past month and has become the latest technological weapon against Sudan’s regime by a student-led group called Girifna – which translates as “We are fed up,” according to the Canadian paper.

“Girifna is using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, cellphone messages, homemade videos and “flash mobilizations” on the streets to drum up opposition to President Omar al-Bashir. They estimate they have nearly 18,000 supporters in various branches across the country. Their Facebook group alone has more than 6,000 members,” the Globe and Mail said.

The group is hardly a threat to al-Bashir, who is expected to win the elections easily, but, as the Globe and Mail concludes, “they are an annoying thorn in his side.”

If No One Tweets is it a Revolution?

The question of whether social media is the answer to less-than-democratic regimes, though, is not so easy to answer, despite what is happening in the Sudan. Last month pundits paid little attention to protests in Kyrgyzstan, Foreign Policy magazine noted. For “obvious geopolitical reasons” protests in Iran and Burma and even Thailand got greater play in the West – although the story did merit a front page write-up in the New York Times thanks to the U.S. military bases in the country.

But social media could care less about geopolitics and military bases, Foreign Policy noted – and there was no significant buzz on Twitter. “Unlike Justin Bieber, the Kyrgyz revolution is not “trending” as a popular topic there… there is no critical tweetering mass that could fuel the kind of collective fantasy that was fueled by “#iranelection” on Twitter. Consequently, there is no pressure on the Western media to dream up non-existent (Twitter-powered!) angles to news stories: getting their viewers/listeners/readers up to speed on what/where Kyrgyzstan is would eat up the whole story anyway.”

Bottom line;  for all the hype about “digital revolutions”, “analog revolutions” are still the norm, not the exception.

This article is published by Marketing Vox, read the original article here.


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