Monday, 13 March 2017

Cyber-Activism and Major Social Movements



This is aimed to understand the different aspects of the phenomenon called Cyber-Activism and the way it unfolded during major social movements across the world.

Some of the major movements covered were:

  • The Indignants Movement of Spain and Greece - It consisted of the ‘common’ people protesting against unemployment, corruption and inflation by occupying public spaces. Facebook and Twitter helped in the coordination of protests, restoration of access to prohibited online platforms, enabling access to classified documents, etc. Also, this movement exhibited lesser known characteristics of Cyberactivism like post-movement forgetfulness, movements as performances and consensus mobilization.
  • The Occupy Wall Street Movement - Again, a movement that was majorly active on the social network. However, when everyone talked about the freedom of the internet and the democratization of the web, the government kept a close track of the movement through close monitoring of the web activity of the people who were involved in the movement. Besides blocking active accounts and cutting power supply of the meeting area, the movement was also declared as potential criminal activity alert. The irony lies here in the fact that the web which was touted as a democratic medium ultimately became the bane of the movement.
  • Arab Spring - This was another movement which led to the overthrow of the oppressive regimes  and to the conduct of parliamentary elections in many Arab countries.  Arabs created virtual forums for citizen journalism which enabled ordinary citizens document not only the protests, but also the underlying causes that led to the eruption of these protests in the first place, such as governmental brutality, limitations on freedom of expression and flaws in the political system. The facebook pages and the blogs helped in disseminating information to the rest of the world.
  • WikiLeaks is an international, online, non-profit organisation which publishes secret information, news leaks and classified media from anonymous sources. In  2010, five major newspapers simultaneously published the first 220 of 251,287 confidential US diplomatic cables collected by WikiLeaks. As soon as the organization came under pressure following the publication of the US cables, and companies like PayPal, Amazon, and MasterCard started to withdraw their services. WikiLeaks became the fetish of online free speech, and the mainspring of a cyber-crusade and brought in the much debated concept of hackitivism.
  • Online support was gathered for the East Timor movement against Indonesia throughout the world in an era without any social media. Various internet domains, information services, hacking, cracking, online polls, mass emails, etc. were used. This eventually led to the disconnection of several phone lines and web servers at the UN building, the White House, and the Indonesian presidential office leading to the creation of a multinational force under UN for the cause.
  • Kony 2012 was another case study that was studied. The most recent of all, it released a 30 minute documentary to make people aware of the Uganda LRA’s rebel leader, Joseph Kony. Declared the most viral video of all time, it encouraged the people to get him arrested. This was chosen as a cast study because of it being unique - Occupy movements brought like minded people together by Kony brought everyone together after shaping their views. The video on Youtube and Vimeo was what triggered activity among the people on other social networking websites.

Therefore, the presence of cutting edge technologies makes everything go viral. Quick deliverance and reception, limitless information provision and increase in interactivity aid Cyberactivism. Raising consensus, building awareness and and dissemination of information on the online platform is what defines Cyberactivism.