Facebook was born in 2004, Twitter in 2006 and Instagram in 2010, but today, social media are booming and they’re the main sources of information and reference for people worldwide. They help democratize information that once was in the hands of governments and classes that held power (yes, this is getting political).
In Feb 17th 2003, the American writer Patrick Tyler published an article in The New York Times claiming that “there may still be two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world public opinion.”
In times of dictatorship and repression, authorities strive to control public and international opinion as a way to safeguard their interests. Communication is critical to control the masses. If you want to dig deeper into how this is achieved, the case of Cambridge Analytica is a good example (we suggest you read the article we published about it: Mark Zuckerberg is an alien and Cambridge Analytica manipulates my decisions).
The rise of social media makes it really complex to have absolute control over every media outlet, because each person becomes a communicator. Such was the difficulty of Hosni Mubarak during the 2011 uprisings in Egypt, when his administration, after 30 years in power, addressed the crisis by unplugging the whole country from the Internet to avoid anyone or any media to have access to information they couldn’t control. That forced people to search other ways to disseminate information, from apps that worked offline or without a cellphone line, to different means to connect to the Internet, such as satellite connections and alternative networks.
Technology Empowers People
Nowadays, it’s impossible for governments to have absolute control of the information out there, as they exercised 40 years ago. The recent events in Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, Venezuela, Bolivia and many other countries show so. The images, videos and any audiovisual content generated by social media users are sources that international organizations use to intervene or investigate on the matters. And they also affect public opinion.
Any person with a smartphone in their hands can become a communication outlet. Technology empowers people and enables them to spread the news about important social issues. #metoo, #niunamenos, #prayforamazonas are just some of the campaigns that gained popularity and generated a global impact. It’s important to understand that these days, social media shape public opinion and are above governments and any control effort during moments of crisis. Unlike past times, now we can (and must), become communicators of the reality around us.