Free Paper on Social Media and Protests: The Power to Mobilize, Inform, and Shape Change

Published: 2024-01-18
Free Paper on Social Media and Protests: The Power to Mobilize, Inform, and Shape Change
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Government Social media
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1908 words
16 min read

With the ever-increasing availability of internet access globally, social media has transformed the traditional association between the government and the people by providing citizens with powerful and innovative ways to harmonize their efforts to display or express their political and social concerns. As such, people have been powered not only to share ideas amongst themselves but also to raise pressing issues, some of which may be so sensitive as to cause widespread outrage, in what is being termed as "trending," leading to virtual rights movements termed as the social media movements. The past decade has witnessed the emergence of social media movements powered by the ability to share and receive information in real time, surpassing the traditional physical barriers between states, individuals, classes, and other diverse sectoral groups. There has been rising debate on whether the rising social unrest is due to other factors or the rise of internet usage, particularly social media.

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Social unrest is an integral part of human history and has contributed to changes that have radially introduced credible and positive modern societies' changes. Some of these include the Civil Rights Movement and the strong messages associated with these movements (Yang, 2013). These social unrests have also blended great leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, whose ideologies encouraged individuals across all nations to take to the streets and demand reforms. These acts were always met by violent repression. This is proof that individuals, in some cases, act violently, not because of the influence within but the opposition they face when demanding their rights. This persuasive essay will attempt to explain how social media increases violence by spreading highly edited events to leave the most sensitive parts that cause mass up-rise within and without the country in real time.

A protest is a public expression of objection from the people, and typically it will be a political one or against the government. Protesters may organize a protest as a way of making their opinions heard, or they may try to take direct action to see changes in the government. There are two kinds of protesting, peaceful protest and violent protest, and both of these took place in the United States of America. According to the Columbus Dispatch, they defined a protest like this "If protesters don't follow those necessary things, (police) have to make sure it is safe for all involved," Taylor said. "Anytime you're causing harm or causing property damage, those are not legitimate actions of peaceful protests."(Bethany, 2020). This being said, it only turns into violent protests when protesters are causing harm or damaging property, and this is against the law. However, citizens have the right to protest peacefully on US soil. According to this article, “Free expression of one's beliefs is protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which generally protects free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly. Protesting -- the time-honored practice of publicly speaking out against perceived injustices and urging action -- is a form of assembly and thus protected by the Constitution.” (Kellie, 2020). In addition, it is said in the constitution that people have the right to peacefully protest and speak up, but still there are limits to that. “While governments may not deny a person's constitutional right to peacefully protest, they may regulate the time, place, and manner in which the protest is conducted.” (Kellie, 2020).

One of the ways social media has contributed is the fast spread of both information and misinformation. With most Americans using or having access to social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, TicToc, and WhatsApp, it is easier to amplify a situation or a story from an arrest issue that would end up as a police issue, instead of highly edited video clips capturing one side of the story while ignoring the whole aspect of the arrest increasing the potential of setting a country ablaze like it was witnessed with the events surrounding George Floyd incident. What is worsening the situation is both the protestors and law enforcement are employing social platforms to monitor each other, during a tense faceoff, with the people trying to settle a score with the law enforcement which is always observed as being on the wrong side, even when their act is honest and aiming to protect the society. Nowadays, it is possible to receive images of burning buildings, teargas-filled streets, and a ranged mass in individuals' timelines with the clips lacking credible sources and timelines, amounting to misinformation. For example, through the use of the free video editing application, one can edit clips even from movies, depicting a capital on the verge of collapse and use promoted hashtags, like #DCblackout, #StopmasskillinginDC, magnifying a nonexistent issue to a nationwide issue that may cause people, especially in other cities to go out and protest for DC.

Alternatively, sharing the clips and the associated messages lacks accountability, platform, or leadership that can guide the sharer. Thus, the individual would rather capture and edit what they think will go viral, enabling them to gain followership and instant popularity leading to mass outrage and instant reaction that leads to virtual social groupings. These groupings have powerful symbolism that creates a sense of collective identity that continually inspires more similar groups to join in worldwide. With such collective identity and raw and unverified data, it becomes very difficult for the government and security agencies to convince the people otherwise, leading to battles of conflicting narratives as each side is trying to justify their action.

However, the protests that took place in the United States are quite different than the protests that happened in other countries. As we all know, all the other protests started after the death of George Floyd, which was a protest against police brutality and violence against African Americans. Being said in the Times news, “Yet the timing and cruelty of Floyd’s death, captured in a horrific video that shows the white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin casually kneeling on the victim’s neck, has spurred a national uprising. Since Floyd died on May 25, demonstrations have erupted in scores of cities across the country as veteran activists and newfound allies alike rally to the cause of racial justice.” (Alex, 2020). George Floyd is not the first African American whose death in police custody caused demonstrations. There were also marches and demands for reform after Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner who were killed by police. But, with the response more prolonged and widespread, this time seems different. Demonstrations have taken place throughout the US, in all 50 states. The reason Gorge Floyds’ death caused a lot of demonstrations across the globe, is because it was filmed on camera and everyone was able to see it. “Local governments, sports, and businesses appear readier to take a stand this time - most notably with the Minneapolis city council pledging to dismantle the police department. And the Black Lives Matter protests this time seem more racially diverse - with larger numbers of white protesters, and protesters from other ethnicities, standing with black activists.” (Helier, 2020)

In fact, after what happened to George Floyd, it took only a couple of hours for the news to spread across the world due to social media and the internet. Social media and the internet are the most powerful sources for spreading the news across the world in a matter of hours. The difference between the past and these days, is that technology is much more developed than it was before, and that’s why anyone can spread the news from anywhere in the world on his/her phone through the media, that’s how powerful and fast social media and the internet could be. According to CNN, “As the protests continued in the United States for a second week in response to the killing of George Floyd, people around the world began to stand up with them. From London to Pretoria to Sydney, people took to the streets to express the need for police reform and racial equality. Many held signs that read "Black Lives Matter," while others kneeled. At some protests, marchers stood in silence for the amount of time Floyd struggled to breathe while police officers detained him.” (2020).

In an article that talks about how social media has changed the civil rights movement and protests, “Social media allows us to see a reality that has been entirely visible to some people and invisible to others. Wasow, a professor at Princeton University and co-founder of the pioneering social network, said social media was helping publicize police brutality and galvanizing public support for protesters’ goals — a role that his research found conventional media played a half-century ago. And he said he believed that the internet was making it easier to organize social movements today, for good and for ill.” (Shira, 2020). Time and space were too high for those who lived in the previous century, so it was very hard to coordinate demonstrations and come together. In addition, society was still one-sided in that it was driven for the benefit of the majority by the power elites. In other means, “There’s a through line today. The video of George Floyd taken by Darnella Frazier is an echo of the bearing witness of the beating of Rodney King, and before that the images of Bloody Sunday in Selma [in 1965]. Part of what social media does is allow us to see a reality that has been entirely visible to some people and invisible to others. As those injustices become visible, meaningful change follows.” (Shira, O 2020). In recent times, however, individuals with the assistance of technology have overcome the obstacle of time and space by using social networking sites to communicate and disseminate knowledge to gather like-minded individuals. It has contributed to a series of demonstrations against the country's corrupt and powerful people. This will suggest that the use of social media has allowed the protester to come together and spread the news in no time, whether or not the demonstrations lead to riots, which allows them to demonstrate their power. Normally, when the government is prepared to speak about the steps they are going to take and promise to rally, the demonstrators will be persuaded, but if the government and the police agency use more power to curb legitimate demonstrations, out of desperation and disappointment, people will go crazy and participate in violence. While riots and violence are wrong, they will indulge in violent actions because people do not have any other means, since all the fight for freedom and independence, including the American War of Independence, was violent and against the dictator because people felt the rules were unfair.

After what happened with George Floyd, and the news spread across the country, everything started to go downhill. As Al-Jazeera wrote in one of their articles, “The police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25 sparked protests across the United States and worldwide. Following the killing, protests erupted in at least 140 US cities, with thousands of people taking to the streets against police violence. While protests have remained largely peaceful, looting, vandalism and fires have taken place in some cities” (June, 2020). That being said, the media and the internet are the only reasons that led people to go out and protest.

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Free Paper on Social Media and Protests: The Power to Mobilize, Inform, and Shape Change. (2024, Jan 18). Retrieved from

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