Roundup Global Internet Activism Course

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Information about Roundup Global Internet Activism Course

Published on May 8, 2009

Author: trebor


Roundup of Global Internet Activism Course Trebor Scholz New School University 1 This course examines activist action in which technology plays an important role.

Questions Have social media radically changed the political situation in authoritarian countries? What are the transformational potentials of social media for political activism? How successful are social media in support of sustained, long-term activist campaigns? 2 The impact of social media tools is less significant in the United States than in countries in transition (Morozov). Keywords: Memory, Immediacy, Organization, Public forum (social, sexual, religious), Accountability Platform Activism Email Cellphone-Activism, SMS, Blogs, Blogs, IM

Immediacy Social Media allow for ad hoc reporting of events and the organization of protests. The core issues are social, not predominantly technical. Setting up a blog only helps if people dare to post despite fears of arrest (i.e., Burma). 3

US Airways Flight 1549 Reporting Cycle 4

Methodology: Specificity and Comparison In this course we analyze social media by discussing the “affordances” of specific tools in their cultural and political context. We compare what activists achieved by using a particular tool in a given political situation to what they would have accomplished without it. 5

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Obsolescence Social media tools and phenomena are constantly in transition: What persists? 8 The significance of the case studies that we analyzed in this course will fade away. Specific tools will fall out of favor and others will gain popularity. Nevertheless, it is crucial to study such specific examples, concrete applications of today’s social media. While historical examples will be forgotten, the insights that we will gain from these examples will have lasting importance.

Mobilization Why do more people care about file sharing and DRM than about civic engagement? Why do we care more about some conflicts while ignoring others? 9 The Importance of what we care about: Self-interest vs. caring for others.

Methods of Censorship 10

Methods of Censorship Iran: slow Internet speed, required registration of blogs, assertion of supremacy over online public opinion Russia: officially no censorship but state owns most platforms and swamps them with propaganda China: “astroturfing” pretend “openness” (self-)censorship state ownership of platforms (i.e., video), Internet Service Providers (ISPs) filter content because they are legally held responsible by the state crack down of pornography becomes smoke screen for censorship of online dissent 11 Governments are getting more adept at blocking or filtering the Internet and cellphone communication but also bloggers find novel ways to outwit such repression. In Iran, the government started over 10,000 conservative Basji blogs. (The Basji are paramilitary forces). In China, bloggers were paid to write positive comments about the government.

Astroturfing China’s 50 Cent Army The Communist Party aims at the assertion of supremacy over online public opinion by paying bloggers for positive comments about the government. image source: 12 Astroturfing describes political campaigns that seek to create the impression of being spontaneous quot;grassrootsquot; behavior.


Citizens report websites that are critical of the king Crowd sourced surveillance in Thailand 14

Challenging the Old Mass Media Model Information Politics and the Internet as Research Tool 15 16 Democratic globalization movement, WTO, G8

17 For the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle, activists built a web platform that would challenge the old mass media model by providing citizens with a platform to contribute their news reports to the IndyMedia site. Hundreds of IMC chapters emerged around the world. While the IMC was incredibly significant, today, their importance is somewhat in question.

The Old Mass Media Model Benkler, chapter 6 18 19 The citizen journalism portal OhMyNews was founded in 2000 in South Korea. After the presidential elections in South Korea in 2002, the president elect gave his first interview not to the press but to OhMyNews acknowledging their crucial role in his victory.

Digital Nomads a non-profit service supporting Chinese people to set up their independent blogs 20 After the popularization of weblogs, culminating in 2004, it became increasingly clear that blogs started to play an important role in news reporting. By 2006, one hundred million blogs were set up but not all were active.

The Lead-Up To The War In Iraq 21 Who oered a better analysis of the lead-up to the Iraq war and specifically: Who oered a more salient critique of Colin Powell’s speech in front of the United Nations in 2003-- the blogosphere or The New York Times? Bloggers certainly questioned the assertions by the administration more rigorously. Blogs Opening Iranian Society? 22 In 2000, blogging got momentum in Iran. Today, there are roughly 100,000 blogs in Farsi, which are authored by expats and by people living in Iran. 23 Dr. Mona El-Farra blogs about women, health, children, and human rights in Palestine. 24 Zola travels rural China and posts his observations to his website.

25 In 2005, two art students from Guangzhou (China) used a webcam to record themselves lip synching the Back Street Boys in their dorm room. They uploaded the video to YouTube where it was been viewed by millions of people and they signed contracts for promotional corporate TV appearances. 26 AlJazeera makes extensive eorts to overcome its Anti-American reputation in anglophone regions in order to reach a broader audience. 27 Global Voices provides a stage for locally trusted bloggers who represent local communities- from China to Kenya.

Cross-National Attention: Social Media as Lever 28

1999 NATO's high altitude bombings of Kosovo and Serbia 29 In 1862, during the American civil war, Mathew Brady took photographs of the Battle at Antietam and presented his photographs in a gallery in New York City. About 140 years later, NATO conducts high altitude bombings of Serbia and Kosovo. CNN represents NATO’s “humanitarian intervention” with abstract images of “surgical strikes.”

30 This Kosovo War, sometimes called the first Internet War, was accompanied by almost real-time reports of mayhem and destruction on mailing lists such as <nettime> where a Serb writing under the pseudonym “insomnia” aired frequent, highly emotional accounts of what he or she witnessed. 31 When the Milosovic regime raided the radio station B92 in Belgrade and confiscated all broadcasting equipment, it overlooked the existence of B92’s Internet radio. Consequently, the radio station continued to broadcast online, allowing voices critical of Milosovic to be heard.

uw2 Group vh2/pavlec/clinetton.htm 32 While Kosovars had little online presence, Serbian artists made ample use of the Internet to distribute their artwork in response to this war.

33 In 2003 an anonymous blogger in Iraq commented on the lead up to the war in Iraq from within the country. The blogger, who called himself Raed wrote with much humor and eloquence about everything from the music of Massive Attack to his take on the invasion. He reached an international readership of thousands who left hundreds of comments on a daily basis. political situation in Burma has hardly changed but international attention was heightened Nano-activism: “just blowing off steam?” 34 Since 1962 Burma lived under military rule. Each time there was a riot, the junta closed down the borders and asked all journalists to leave before mercilessly cracking down on the protests, killing many hundred dissenters. In 2007, anti-government protests erupted once again but this time it was significantly harder to prevent witness-bearing acts. A small group of Burmese sent photos and videos from inside Burma to the BBC via FTP. Thousands of people joined the Facebook group “Support the Monks’ Protest in Burma.” They also widely distributed images, videos, and photos of the situation in Burma all across the Web. However, it is hard to say what these small acts of virtual activism achieved. They did not end the rule of the military junta. On the other hand, Facebook groups alongside online videos, photos, and articles in major newspapers, directed worldwide attention to the repressive regime in Burma, which may have prevented the military from an even more violent suppression of dissenting voices. 35 Founded in 1977, RAWA’s main goal is to fight fundamentalism in Afghanistan. While RAWA’s web presence did draw attention to the situation of women in Afghanistan, its website, which contains many photos of the Taliban was instrumentalized by the United States Army during their initial Afghanistan oensive. Israeli Consulate holds press conferences on Twitter 36 During the 2008/2009 Israel-Gaza conflict, Israel shut out all journalists from the war zone. Consequently, Facebook and YouTube became the information front line. The Israeli Consulate gave press conferences on Twitter, for example.

Ushahidi (Swahili for quot;testimonyquot;) 37 Using the Kenyan software platform Ushahidi, AlJazeera allowed Israelies and Palestinians to report protests, rocket attacks, casualties and deaths, using Twitter and SMS. Ushahidi was used for the Kenyan elections and prior to Gaza. In April 2009, it was used to monitor the Indian elections. Wikipedia about Ushahidi: “Ushahid means 'witness' in Swahili and was chosen as the name for a website developed to map reports of violence in Kenya after the post-election fallout at the beginning of 2008. It uses the concept of crowdsourcing for social activism and public accountability, serving as an initial model for what has been coined as 'activist mapping' - the combination of social activism, citizen journalism and geospatial information.” Deployments of Ushahidi 38

Deployments of Ushahidi 39 40 2008/2009 Israel-Gaza conflict: Both, Israelies and Palestinians created Facebook applications that would take over a given user’s status update. The Palestinian version automatically notified people of incidents that led to the death of Palestinians while the Israeli version, Qassam Count, created alerts about rockets that were launched against Israel territory. More than 70,000 users of Facebook installed Qassam Count. The same information was also made available via Twitter. more than 70,000 Facebook users donated their status 41 In addition, to QuassamCount, there were also various “distributed denial of service” (DDoS) attacks against Palestinian and Israeli websites.

over 700,000 members 42 2008/2009 Israel-Gaza conflict: Facebook groups made the defiance of many activists visible while at the same time mapping the network of their friends.

YouTube channel of the Israel Defense Forces 43 Israel Defense Forces (IDF) created a YouToube where they posted daily commentary by Israeli soldiers on the unfolding war. 44 2008/2009 Israel-Gaza conflict 45 Twitter Search allowed for real-time reporting.

News from Al Jazeera English on the violence in Gaza 46 AlJazeera also made use of Twitter to distribute its take on the war. Editing Wars 47 Editing Wars on Wikipedia The Israel-Gaza conflict also played itself out on the free encyclopedia Wikipedia on the discussion page about the war. More broadly, the Wikipedia entry about Israel mentions the word quot;occupationquot; nine times, whereas the entry on the Palestinian People mentions quot;terrorquot; only once. quot;[This] means only one thing,” says a leading Wikipedia editor during a trip to Israel: “Israelis should be more active on Wikipedia. Instead of blaming it, they should go on the site much more, and try and change it.quot; Raid Gaza! Editorial Games and Timeliness Tank you to Liz Losh for the reference! 48 Online games like Raid Gaza and Save Israel became part of a campaign that aimed to influence international opinion about the war. 49

Symbolic Politics 50

51 The Chinese government employs various techniques to censor the Internet. Filtering of content and the blocking of domains are only part of the larger attempt to control the distribution of dissenting material online. While it is relatively easy to identify and filter terms like “freedom” or “democracy,” it is not possible for computers to understand what can be seen in an image or video. A YouTube video of Alpaca sheep and singing children may morph into course language and a naked man doing push ups comes to stand for dissenting bloggers. River crabs alludes to censorship. 52 Wikipedia: “The Pink Chaddi Campaign is a nonviolent protest movement launched in India in February 2009 in response to notable incidences of violent conservative and right-wing activism against perceived violations of Indian culture, when a group of women were attacked in a pub in Mangalore. The campaign was conceived particularly in protest against a threat by Pramod Muthalik of the Sri Ram Sena (also spelled as Sri Ram Sena, Sri Ram Sene and Sriram Sena), an orthodox Hindu group based in Mangalore. Mr.Muthalik threatened to marry o and take other action on any young couples found together on Valentine's Day.”

Social media can facilitate social and sexual freedoms in conservative societies. 53 54 Earlier on, I mentioned the role of weblogs in Iran. I alluded to the large number of blogs written in Farsi. There are several Irani “girl blogs” that become a public outlet for women who are excluded from coffee houses, for example. Topics of these blogs mainly music, films, dating, and sex. However, blogs are also used as places to discuss interpretations of the Koran that may differ from mainstream exegesis. The Internet facilitates alternative religious community and this includes connections expats and Muslims living in Iran. 55 Facebook groups like Single and Looking in Saudi Arabia allow networked publics of LGBTQ to connect in countries where the punishment for their public display of affection is harsh. While such public forums are well used, the also provide the government to monitor and possibly prosecute them. 56

Internet as Mnemonic Technology 57 58 Tunisian Prison Map was created in 2006. It invites prisoners and their relatives to map the prisons in the country and to add information, and recount experiences. The creators also added information provided by human rights groups. In November 2007 Tunisia blocked access to YouTube and DailyMotion because they contained material on Tunisian political prisoners. It did not work: Barbara Streisand Eect. 59 60 150,000 people joined this group but then left it shortly thereafter.

Accountability Politics 61


63 Human flesh search engines: Chinese vigilantes that hunt victims on the web 64 Wikipedia is not consistently accessible in China but when it is, it is a vital entry point to a wide range of knowledge. 65

66 67 About: “They Rule aims to provide a glimpse of some of the relationships of the US ruling class. It takes as its focus the boards of some of the most powerful U.S. companies, which share many of the same directors. Some individuals sit on 5, 6 or 7 of the top 500 companies. It allows users to browse through these interlocking directories and run searches on the boards and companies. A user can save a map of connections complete with their annotations and email links to these maps to others. They Rule is a starting point for research about these powerful individuals and corporations.”

Social Media for Ad Hoc Mobilization Social media make the ad hoc planning of protests more effective. 68

69 Social networking services as public forum and pro-democracy tool or as mapping tools for authoritarian regimes? Wikipedia: “The April 6 Youth Movement is an Egyptian Facebook group started by Esraa Rashid and Ahmad Maher in Spring 2008 to support the workers in El-Mahalla El-Kubra, an industrial town, who were planning to strike on April 6. Activists called on participants to wear black and stay home the day of the strike. Bloggers and citizen journalists used Facebook, Twitter, Flikr, blogs and other new media tool to report on the strike, alert their networks about police activity, organize legal protection and draw attention to their efforts. The New York Times has identified the movement as the political Facebook group in Egypt with the most dynamic debates. As of January 2009[update], it had 70,000 predominantly young and educated members, most of whom had not been politically active before; their core concerns include free speech, nepotism in government and the country's stagnant economy. Their discussion forum on Facebook features intense and heated discussions, and is constantly updated with new postings.” April_6_Youth_Movement

04/10/2009: Republic of Moldova: Twitter-organized student protest brought some 10,000 people to Chisinau's main square, who accused the government of rigging Sunday's vote. 70

71 “Patrick Meier, an afiliate of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society,... found that an increase in cell-phone availability increases the likelihood (at least perceived by the public) that the government might be overthrown by violent means.”

Responses to 2004 Madrid Train Bombings 72

French Riots 2005 73 Text messaging was used to coordinate the protests.

November 2004 to January 2005: Protests following 2004 Ukrainian presidential election which was claimed to be marred by massive corruption, voter intimidation and direct electoral fraud. (FB, Twitter, SMS) Ukraine_elections_massprotest_20041122.jpg 74

2004 Democratic and Republican National Conventions 2005 inauguration of George W. Bush 75

Feb 15, 2003: Worldwide protests against the war in Iraq (SF), 800 cities, millions of people 76 77 78

Social media can bring media attention to political causes 79

80 The direct impact of the use of social media by Barack Obama is unclear. Did his use of iPhone applications and personal text messages directly get him the youth vote? Regardless of how many people joined his skillfully executed social media campaign, the symbolic value of working in this way was at least as important. It significantly contributed to Obama’s association with new media and change.

81 A small number of avatars, protesters meet in Second Life to show their defiance of the War in Iraq. What looked like an online event of little import and resonance, did in fact catch much media attention. Articles about the Avatars Against the War appeared in the New York Times and the BBC. The novelty factor drew attention to virtual dissent.

Trebor Scholz New School University Twitter: trebors Email: 82


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