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Social Media’s Massive Impact on Modern Political Change

The two-dollar bill was never our proudest currency.

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On July 4, 1776, the American colonies declared their independence via the edgy media of ink and hemp (seriously).

With today’s tech, the American colonies could have just changed their Facebook status to “independent” before launching into the Revolutionary War.

Social media, and democracy, have changed the world – but tyranny is ever wily. In the spirit of July Fourth, have a look at some of the ways tech has done battle with government oppression.

Iran, 2009

The first “Twitter Revolution” broke out during protests of alleged election fraud in Iran. The violence quickly escalated, but Iran’s media blackout kept most of the world unaware of the turmoil – at least at first. Protesters soon flooded social media with news through the anti-censorship software Freegate. Though the movement was soon quelled, the idea of revolution through social media quickly caught on.

Tunisia, 2010-11

After a Tunisian street vendor lit himself on fire to protest his treatment by the authorities, the resulting unrest sparked a police crackdown that provided fodder for the two million Tunisians posting videos and photographs to Facebook. When President Ben Ali finally fled the country in 2011, people across the country tempered the resulting chaos by providing organization and accurate information through social media.

China, 2013

Last year’s anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre was marked by ingenious ways of memorializing the event while censors scrambled. The iconic image of a man standing in front of oncoming tanks was Photoshopped to replace the tanks with giant rubber ducks, thus averting government filters. The photograph went viral, prompting a crackdown on any social media referring to big yellow ducks. Authorities managed to keep a step ahead of the masses this year, employing more than two million people to monitor social media sites.

Turkey, 2014

In an attempt to quash news of corruption, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan promised to eradicate Twitter from his country in March. The ban, however, proved to be a simple DNS block, allowing citizens to continue tweeting by switching DNS servers, using proxies, and texting their tweets (as advised by Twitter). Twitter has since been reinstated per order from Turkey’s highest court, though YouTube is still banned.

Whether by quill or by keyboard, every revolution starts with a declaration.


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