One early use of Twitter had El Fattah and a dozen or so of his collegues coordinating movements to surround a car in which their friend Malek was being held by the police, to prevent it and him from being towed away. Knowing they were being monitored, they then sent messages suggesting that many more of them were coming. The police sent reinforcements, surrounding and thus immobilizing the car themselves. This kept Malek in place until the press and the members of parliament arrived. The threat of bad publicity led to Malek’s release, an outcome that would have been hard to coordinate without Twitter – Here Comes Everybody, Clay Shirky
James Karl Buck, a graduate journalism student from the University of California-Berkeley was in Mahalla, Egypt, covering an anti-government protest when he and his translator, Mohammed Maree, were arrested. On his way to the police station, Buck took out his cell phone and sent a single word message, “Arrested”, to his friends and contacts using the micro-blogging site Twitter. This alerted them and helped secure his release(details not known)
Mortin Pain Reliever in an effort to pitch to mom who wear their babies released a print and video ad campaign.The campaign didn’t go down well with moms and they started fighting back on their blogs and Twitter. As the campaign picked momentum, the company officials realised their mistake and in order to pacify irrate customers, removed the ad from their website and apologised on their site.
A few weeks back amazon users realized that many books about gays, lesbians, bisexual and transsexual issues stopped appearing in relevant searches. Enraged users and authors swung into action and started posting updates on Twitter about this with adding a hashtag #amazonfail. It wasn’t long enough that Twitterverse was abuzz with #amazonfail, this led to a public communication by the company that this incident was inadvertant and soon things were fixed and back to normal.
Twitter is increasingly being used for activism of sorts. Be it customers protesting against a product/company, or citizens campaigning against their government officials/policies, Twitter is the platform of choice when it comes to raising your voice against an issue or coordinating a protest(online and offline both).
Social media activism has graduated from protests in blogosphere, groups in social networking sites to #hashmobs on Twitter. The reasons for Twitter’s success as a platform for activism are
1) Critical Mass: Twitter has gained enormous mass since last year and is now a force to reckon with. Millions of users from all parts of the world use it to stay connected with their friends and family. It’s not just people like you and me, there are some really big brands that have presence on Twitter.
2) Dense Connectivity: Twitter is one of the most densely connected networks of all. It won’t be wrong to say “On Twitter, everyone is connected to everyone”, which means getting the word out is a lot easier. Chances of people noticing something and sharing it with others is quite high. The ease of sharing content(RT ) is another reason for word to be spread easily.
3) Search: Awesome search functionality, made further useful by trending topics make the discoverability of memes a lot easier. With the latest changes, everyone can see the trending topics on their Twitter page. This without any effort discoverability is really helpful in getting more eyeballs.
4) High visibility outside the platform: What makes a protest on Twitter better from say one of Facebook is that Twitter updates are more shareable(via blog widgets, feeds) than Facebook messages. Also, thanks to dozens of really popular tools, Twitter updates are just not limited to the website, you can get updates on your desktop app, mobile phone and email.
5) Hooked Traditional Media: There’s enough traditional media presence on Twitter which is eager to pick the next big story. So anything of significance in Twitterverse is quite likely to be noticed by them and spread further.
It would be interesting to see how activism on Twitter evolves from this point on. I’d like to end this post by sharing a list of Twitter Activism related protests/campaigns.
1. James Karl Buck: Arrested
4. Using Twitter to coordinate war protest
5. G20 summit protestors used Twitter and Facebook
6. Protest against Section92A, New Zealand
7. Inside Maldova’s Twitter revolution
8. Coordinating Malek’s release
10. Domino’s Social Media Disaster
11. Twittering Forest Fires
12. Twitter Charity(Twestival) raises more than US $250,000
Lastly here’s a nicely writter guide by digiactive to get you started with Twitter Activism