Today our rights are constantly under siege. In the U.S. our civil rights are often taken for granted and ignored, this allows people in power to take advantage of the people. With recent issues like violence in Syria and the American Government shutdown I begin to wonder, what is it going to take for people to take action? Every individual has some topic they are willing to fight for, unfortunately despite how important these issues are to us we simply cannot abandon our jobs and lives to peruse the activist lifestyle. Today social media platforms all over the world allow us to no longer sit idly by. We can now connect with people who share the same passion about certain current issues. Speaking out against something you saw on the news is no longer a private complaint. Now you can share your thoughts with millions who could agree or disagree, provoking thought and sparking initiative. Social Media sites allow a virtual place for activist to gather and become organized, they are also able to promote their groups and expand member base nation or even worldwide.
Here in the U.S. we are constantly posting to social sites, and it may seem unbelievable what citizens in other countries face when it comes to internet freedom. Countries like Vietnam face incredible scrutiny when it comes to what they are able to post. Vietnamese are expected to follow a strict law passed in September or undoubtedly face prison. In a Time article by Jak Phillips he discusses the details of Decree 72, the new law cracking down on web content. The decree states no online content can “oppose” the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (Phillips, 2013).This term along with many others within the law can be loosely interpreted, and allow the government to easily misconstrue any web content. The Vietnamese refuse however to be silenced. Phillips states they have set up training programs, based out of headquarters in the U.S. that allow Vietnamese to avoid cyber surveillance. Without social media these activists would be alone in their struggle and continue to be repressed by their government.
With people beginning to stand up more and more because of the ability social media provides, leaders with strict militant rule are losing control over the masses. Egypt is another area that faces constant civil unrest where people have yet again turned to social media. The outlook for the citizens of Egypt was very grim in the year 2011. According to an anonymous author Vice President Soleiman stated “the dark bats of the night emerging to terrorize the people,” if protesters continued. Meaning heavy police action would be taken if the protestors persisted. When people came together in a province south of Cairo three were killed and another hundred injured when police forces opened fire on a riot that had broken out (Anonymous, 2011).When civil protests are denied and extinguished it only make the fire of freedom burn stronger.
History has taught us one valuable lesson over time. There is power in numbers. The masses and general public hold the same authority they always have. Social media provides a way to exercise that authority. Unlike many other countries we have the right to demand our government be run in a way that is meant to serve the people. If we as individuals disagree or feel we are being done a disservice it is not only our right but our duty to protest. In a Washington Times article by Daniel Gray he states that now more than ever Representatives are listening to the input of the people if the feedback is there. Gray states that our job is to make sure we are generating that information, making the calls sending the e-mails. Today’s ever growing web based avenues leave no excuse for not making the communication. Taking the time to write and email is much different than the steps required to write a letter, it’s so fast there is no reason we shouldn’t be corresponding with our Representatives about everything we disagree with. In a way social media has added a powerful weapon to the activist arsenal, the problem is knowing how to utilize it effectively. As the web continues to grow will the activist grow with it? Or have people come to a point where they are unmotivated? What will it take for people to really speak out and feel passionate?
Anonymous. (2011, Oct. 2). Egypt Day 16: Day of Civil Disobedience; Social Media Overhype? [Web log comment] Retrieved from http://politeching.wordpress.com/2011/02/10/egypt-day-16-day-of- civil-disobedience-social-media-overhyped/
Gray, D. M. (2013, Oct. 10). The Gathering Storm. Washington Times. Retrieved from http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/gathering-storm/2013/oct/10/civil- disobedience-internet-age/
Phillips, J. (2013 Sept. 30). The Civil Disobedience of the 21st Century: How Vietnamese Bloggers Evade Controls. Time World. Retrieved from http://world.time.com/2013/09/30/the-civil-disobedience-of-the-21st-century-how-vietnamese-bloggers-evade-controls/