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Published on April 21st, 2016 | by Editor

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The Philippines: Social Media

The Philippines makes for an excellent example when talking about the power that social media yields in today’s world. Back in 2001, the president of Philippines, Joseph Estrada, was impeached due to corruption charges. While the congress was deciding on the impeachment, the loyalists in the assembly voted to keep the impeachment free of the main evidence against the president. Within hours of the announcement of the decision, Filipinos who were got furious at the decision, began gathering on a major avenue in Manila. The protest was a fine result of a text that made the rounds, calling everything to gather at EDSA Avenue. The crowd swelled in numbers within days, reaching almost a million.

That week, around 7 million texts were circulated which managed to garner a massive response. Such was the magnitude of the response that the government was compelled to take back its decision and try the president in light of all evidence present against him. A trial that began on the 17th of January ended on 20th by eliminating the president from the scenario for once and for all. This marked the first time in the history of mankind that social media managed to oust a corrupt leader.

Ever since the advent of internet, the initial millions in the 90s have grown to billions today. Simultaneously, social media has found a place right in the middle of it all. It has managed to become an integral part of everyone’s life. It has become a platform where any kind of activation is possible. Thus, the actors are in various forms: social activists, NGOs, governments, citizens, etc. In such circumstances, how are US interests affected and what kind of policy should be adopted by the US government to tackle the same?

With social media platforms, it has become easier to network with a variety of people. This ease have created a thicker web of people, making communication dynamics more complex and the freedom and platform to voice your opinion more readily available. As far as politics is concerned, just like it happened in Philippines, such platforms can help activate throngs of people on to the streets for their demands.

As a matter of fact, what happened in Philippines has not been a lone incident since. Many have followed suit. There was an incident in Spain in 2014 where they were able to oust Jose Maria Aznar, the then Prime Minister. The reason behind this action was his unfounded allegation on the Basque separatists for the bombings in Madrid. This was instigated primarily through text messages as well. Then there is another example of Moldova which was held because of widespread election corruption. That protest was carried out with the help of texts, Facebook and Twitter messages. Moreover, the issue of child abuse in the Catholic Church was raised in 2002 with the use of social media and it went viral instantly.

At the same time, there are numerous examples of such instances failing at achieving what they wanted to. This includes the futile protest in Belarus in 2006 to send Aleksandr Lukashenko, the president packing on the suspicion of rigged elections. This platform used this time was email. The protest did not manage to serve its purpose but it did give Lukashenko a reason become more vigilant to control these platforms. Then in 2009, Iran experienced the Green Movement which was nipped in the bud by the authorities in a violent manner. The protest was arranged via almost all social media tools and the reason was again the incompetence of the election commission. A more gory event took place in Thailand in 2010 when the government checked the public by opening fire and killing quite a few.

Social media is equipped with a number of tools that can be used to further a cause. There are texts, emails, image sharing, video sharing, networking, etc. The end result of each cannot be measured or foretold which makes it harder to decipher the affect and the reaction. Moreover, there is little is any data available to monitor and analyze the causes and the factors affecting the moves because the phenomenon is new and hence still has many unexplored territories. In recent studies, one of the most reliable also has a broad scope. On an answer to whether digital tools help democracy or not, it states that they can be made useful in the short as well as long term. Moreover, they are most effective in areas where a certain league is already constricting government action.

Social media without doubt has become a place where people can coordinate their whereabouts and movements which may have political impact as well. There may be examples of people being able to oust presidents but the end result is dependent upon the support a society is willing to lend to a certain cause. Thus, the US government must also consider internet freedom as key.


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