Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Does Social Media Help Foment Revolution? A Theory From Within Twitter.

Now here’s a topic we can all agree on: The role of social media in political revolutions.

Kidding.

While some like Malcolm Gladwell and Evgeny Morozov belittle the hubris of crediting Facebook and Twitter for such a contribution, revolutionaries like Wael Ghonim and armchair commentators like the greater Twitter userbase love to gab about social media’s role in community organizing and couriering authentic messages to the world.

The companies behind these services also describe their roles differently. Facebook insists that it is not political while Twitter has explicitly declared the freedom to tweet is a human right.

In a post on his personal blog this week (complete with illustrative charts like the example above), Othman Laraki, Twitter director of search and geo, went so far as to propose a “revolutionary equation” that can be tipped by a critical mass of dissent.

Laraki contended that Twitter and Facebook reduce the cost of dissent and increase the cost of suppressing it. When a group of people thinks it is big enough to take on a government, it will do so, and this process can be facilitated by Facebook groups and pages and Twitter hashtags and followers.

So basically, Twitter and Facebook help revolutions get closer to a tipping point, to borrow a term from Gladwell.

The public nature of these sites can help get the word out to a larger audience (Laraki downplayed the chance that governments are also watching social media).

And social media can be amplified by traditional media. Laraki called the BBC News “a massive Twitter application that pressured governments to reduce the cost of dissent and further increased the expectation of mass for the revolutionaries.”


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