Social media has been trending for the past couple of years and many different types of people, especially protesters, use it. People share videos, volgs, pictures, and hashtags on these platforms, but protesters use social media to get their messages across and be heard. Avery Jackson, a 20 year old junior at Morehouse College who helps organize some social media protests, explains, “Social media is really powerful because it allows us to control the narrative and get our voices out while connecting to people who want similar things.” Protesters are able to feel like they are a part of something and they can speak up about it. These people feel like one big organization and they all have a part in it. According to the video “Social Networking's Role in Middle East Protests,” social network analysts present that social media makes people feel a part of an organization without having to have 1 specific leader. The feeling of being in an organization in one advantage to using social media for protesting but there are other advantages too.
There are many advantages to using social media for protests; specifically social media provides protesters the feeling of being their own leader. Charlton McIlwain, a New York University media and culture professor, states, "Anyone who is participating on social media can be his or her own leader and drive his or her own protest that is connected to the larger movement but separate at the same time." Not only does it allow users to feel like leaders but also it is an easy way to give and receive information quickly. Social media’s speed at which it provides information is helpful to protesters, they can know all the information needed for a protests instantaneously, according to Joshua Tucker from the Washington Post. Social networks can be fast and efficient for protesters allowing things to go viral but there are negative things to it as well.
Although there are many advantages to using social media for protests, there are disadvantages too. People believe that using social media as a way to protest is not as impactful as protesting offline. Shonda Rhimes, a successful television writer and producer, spoke at Dartmouth College in 2014 saying, “But a hashtag is not a movement. A hashtag does not make you Dr. King. A hashtag does not change anything. It’s a hashtag. It’s you, sitting on your butt, typing on your computer and then going back to binge-watching your favorite show.” Not only does protesting on social media make less of an influence on people, it give cops information on the protest. Utica Police Department spokesman Lt. Bryan Coromato speaks about how social media protesting is going to be brought to their attention because all the posts are going to be public and it's the police's job to make sure it will be a peaceful protest. The law enforcement can see what people post and if protesters aren't carful police officers can use social media to their advantage in order to stop or arrest protesters.
Law enforcement officers play a role in social media protests because they are able to see everything protesters post and are able to use that as evidence to arrest them. Although social media allows protesters to easily get information out it also makes it easy for the police to see their plans. Law enforcement have recently been investing their time and money into social media to track protests. A study by The Brennan Center for Justice showed that law enforcement agencies have spent about $4.75 million on social media analysis technology tools that can target big events, protesters, and activists. Officers believe that the money is well spent and the technology is very helpful. According to Elizabeth Dwoskin, an author of the Washington Post, “Law enforcement officials say the tools can be useful because sometimes people who commit crimes brag about them on social media. Witnesses also may offer up clues, such as posting that they heard gunshots or posting video of events.” People can be one picture, comment, or vlog away from being arresting if they aren't careful; however, social media can be a positive platform that can allow anyone the chance to change the world.
Social media is not only changing the way people communicate, but also the way they protest. Protesting has not been the same since social media was launched. Wyatt Nelson from the Canadian Press concurs by stating, "It's a remarkable transition from the way protests were once managed where basically there was a monolithic crowd, you got a bunch of megaphones and you hoped everybody heard you. Today everybody's got smartphones and they can hear or read everything in excruciatingly real time detail." Smartphones allow everyone to hear or read about a protest by just having someone post something online. These online posts have brought more and more people to protest. Activist Brendan Dunn talks about how there has been more demonstrations, social movements, and protests today than 15 years ago because of social media. Social media has been a platform for many protesters to use bringing more people in on a movement with its efficiency and speed.
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Dwoskin, Elizabeth. "Police are spending millions of dollars to monitor the social media of protesters and suspects." The Washington Post, 18 November 2016. Student Resources in Context, https://goo.gl/sdfWn6. Accessed 8 February 2017.
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"Social Networking's Role in Middle East Protests." Youtube, uploaded by Associated Press, 18 February 2011, https://goo.gl/kK8Svc. Accessed 4 February 2017.
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