Social Media is the new AK47


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Around the world – from Libya to Egypt; from the death of Osama Bin Laden to the rise of citizen journalism – social media is changing the way we communicate. What does social media mean in the 21st century and what will it do to governments and democracies? Thomas Tudehope will explain social media trends and what they mean, what is happening domestically and abroad and how individuals can influence the political landscape through digital activism.

This presentation was first deliver at the Limmud Oz Conference at UNSW in Sydney.

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  • Hi… thanks for the warm introduction. Social Media is the new AK47. It is the weapon of choice for revolutionaries. It can sweep change, expose corruption and give a voice to the voiceless. Hopefully, today will be as interactive as possible. If you have a question or vehemently disagree please feel free to share and let the discussion flow.
  • John Howard yarn.
  • So, today I want to cover off a few areas and then get into some nitty gritty. What is social media? What are the platforms and how is it different from how we conventionally communicate on the internet. How is our communications changing? Beyond the shortness of speech and text is the substance of what we are saying any different because of social media? Egypt, Iran, Syria, Libya… what role did social media play. And, where to next and what does this mean for democracy in the Middle East and Israel.
  • Probably one of the most misunderstood terms and phrases that is thrown around the internet. Social media is any form of sharing through a digital technology or media platform. It could be anything from a wiki a web page or a Facebook chat conversation. Video, text and even images. At its very core it the ability to share…quickly and with many.
  • There are many many social media platforms across the web. A chat room with only 3 people is technically a social network. However the real social networks are those with mass communication connection millions at the click of a mouse. In these I mean your Facebook and Twitters.
  • As an aside I must just make a point about the transformative power of social media that no doubt others have made here in and elsewhere. The mobile phone is today what the AK47 was for the 20th century. It is the weapon of choice for revolutionaries from Libya to Iran, to Afghanistan to protestors from London to Rio. One person with a mobile can beam video, text and audio to anywhere in the world. Tehran one minute, all over CNN the next. In many ways the mobile will be more devastating than the AK47. It is already creating citizen journalists all around the world and dramatically changing the way in which news is reported.
  • 51% of brand followers will purchase that brand. 12% of logins result in a status update. Without overloading you with statistics I would like to make a simple point about the fastest growing demographic online and this is women aged between 35 and 55. Traditionally these women went online to keep in touch with children or grandchildren. Arriving on blogs and Facebook pages these women have now found vibrant conversation about their favorite books, baby issues, and even old friend from school. Their consumption habits within months resemble nothing what they were when they started.
  • The key statistic here is mobile. This is where the technology is moving and in reality this number is probably a lot higher than the number on the screen.
  • Over the last few 12 months conversation from bars and restaurants to news rooms and the corridors of power have posed the question – is social media driving revolutionary change? Is Facebook, Twitter and YouTube enabling grassroots change the like we have never seen before? My thesis is that is has. It is the most transformative revolutionary tool know to man. It is power is second only to the idea of change itself.
  • As many of you will know the Middle East is one of the most unstable places on the planet. Plagued with violence, little or know democracy and the rise of radical Islam it is the policy cesspool where no leader wants to go.
  • Before I get on to Egypt and Iran I would like to quickly canvass the case of the Baghdad blogger, Salam Pax.
  • I’m going to cover two case studies today. The first being Egypt. I think Egypt is probably the most relevant because of the delicate geopolitical forces that were at play. You had Mubarak on one hand with relatively good and longstanding support from the US and the Muslim Brotherhood on the other and of course a very heavy handed police force. Add into the mix location, timing and the prevalence of the internet and you have a wonderful cocktail of the unknown.
  • I think this point about internet subscription is an important one. If the usage was a lot lower I think the outcome would have been a lot different. You cant just supplant a Facebook revolution on a population with little or no understanding of how the medium works.
  • Egypt's state owned media was one of the most manipulated in the Middle East. Despite the relative freedom and growth of Al Jaazera state owned media still owned a vast majority of the Egyptian market. Without a free press the ability to communicate a message let alone one of dynamic change is almost impossible. This image here as you will see…
  • And another image. So, the rampant manipulation of the media came back to hurt the Egyptian authorities which I will expand upon further at a latter point.
  • Now, this is the ultimate question that I am hoping each of you will either have an opinion or today will in part help you form that opinion.
  • Moving away from the broader perspective lets take a look at exactly what happened in Egypt from a timing point of view.
  • On April 6 this Facebook page emerged and is believed to be the first social media presence inspired by Egyptian uprisings. Grew quickly and soon had 70, 000 fans.
  • Khaled Said was a young Egyptian brutally killed at the hands of Egyptian authorities. Many commentators have looked back and pointed at this as the moment as the key point when an uprising became a revolution. While the actual impact of Ghonim's site cannot be determined,[15] it was Ghonim who first published a call to protest on January 25th, to the followers of his blog, and protesters carried banners and posters displaying the photograph of Saaed's corpse.[12] This has been named one of the catalysts of the 2011 Egyptian protests, as an instance in which people formed a community around opposition to police brutality and, by extension, other government abuses.[14] On February 11, 2011, these protests resulted in the resignation of Hosni Mubarak after 30 years in power.[26] ABC News characterized Saaed in his morgue photo as "The Face That Launched a Revolution".[12] The Washington Post wrote that "Had it not been for a leaked morgue photo of his mangled corpse, tenacious relatives and the power of Facebook, the death of Khaled Said would have become a footnote in the annals of Egyptian police brutality. Instead, outrage over the beating death of the 28-year-old man in this coastal city last summer, and attempts by local authorities to cover it up, helped spark the mass protests demanding the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak."
  • Before Egypt shut off the Internet and mobile phones, before it even started blocking Twitter and Facebook, those tools were used to coordinate and spread the word about the demonstrations that were scheduled for January 25. Without these mass organizing tools, it’s likely that fewer people would have known about the protests, or summoned the kind of courage that’s made possible by knowing you’re not the only one sticking your neck out. Without them, fewer people might have shown up, and the Egyptian authorities might have more easily dispatched them. Chances are, we'd be waking up to today with last Tuesday’s skirmishes nothing more than a fading headline from a week long gone.
  • In situations of chaos, the upper hand goes to the group that can shape a narrative and get it to stick. History is written by the victors, after all--now, even in real time. When looting began over the weekend, the narrative could easily have shifted in favor of the government: Hooligans were turning the city upside down. Order needed to be restored. Clamp down .But word started getting out via Twitter that hastily arranged neighborhood watch groups were apprehending looters who, it turned out, had police IDs on them. This might or might not have been true--it wasn’t possible to confirm the statements--but it certainly shed a different light on the looting. Certainly, other regimes have been known to hire young men to go out and toss a city, to make it look like protesters have turned ugly, giving them an excuse to clamp down.But the tweets belied that narrative. And indeed, on Saturday, a New York-based Egyptian blogger interviewed by CNN, suggested as much. She “appealed to the media to not fall for what she described as a Mubarak regime plot to make the protests in Egypt seem like dangerous anarchy,” according to the New York Times’ blog The Lede. “I urge you to use the words ‘revolt’ and ‘uprising’ and ‘revolution’ and not ‘chaos’ and not ‘unrest," she said. "We are talking about a historic moment.” The narrative was reset. Soon thereafter, CNN changed its on-screen headlines from “CHAOS IN EGYPT” to “UPRISING IN EGYPT.”
  • Washington presumably found itself between a rock and a hard place last week. The U.S. prefers to fall on the side of freedom and self-determination whenever possible. But Egypt is one of this country’s closest allies in the Middle East. And there certainly must be concern about a domino effect leading to even more instability in the region, should Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak fall. When faced with those kinds of tensions in the past, Washington has not infrequently found it more convenient to spin the narrative in favor of the authority in power, in the interest of maintaining stability--and an ally. But that wasn’t possible this time. Too much information was escaping the country. Through the media, in part. But also on YouTube. And particularly via Twitter. An seemingly endless flood of details flowed out, skewing, rightly or wrongly, in favor of the protesters, giving the impression that a genuine uprising was taking place. With that deluge, Washington lost any ability to downplay events on the ground and maintain a distanced posture. It began subtly shifting its stance. As a result, we witnessed a subtle, but incontrovertible, shifting of the U.S. position as the days wore on. Officials began speaking of a “transition.” They declined to articulate explicit support for Mubarak. Defense Secretary Robert Gates put out a call to his counterpart in Israel, presumably to reassure the country, which was getting skittish about the prospect of chaos on its borders should Mubarak fall. President Obama placed calls to other leaders in the region, presumably to offer similar reassurances. By last night, as the New York Times put it in a piece posted that evening, “Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton… [stopped] short of telling its embattled president, Hosni Mubarak, to step down but clearly laying the groundwork for his departure.”Did social media make all this happen? No, of course not. Did it bring everything to a head much sooner than it would have, had Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube not existed? Absolutely.
  • I’ll come back to Egypt but now I’d like to move on to a slightly different example in Iran. Although very different there are some similarities with Egypt that are worth noting.
  • Above all, recent events in the middle east demonstrate that change can happen.
  • Social Media is the new AK47

    1. 1. Social Media is the new AK47<br />Thomas Tudehope<br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    2. 2. Background <br /><ul><li>SR7 – reputation and risk management
    3. 3. Press Secretary for Malcolm Turnbull
    4. 4. US Elections
    5. 5. Sky News
    6. 6. Not a GEEK</li></ul> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    7. 7. Today <br />What is social media <br />How is changing how we communicate <br />What does it mean for democracy here and abroad<br />Where to next? <br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    8. 8. What is social media?<br />“Social Media Networking” is based on web 2.0 functionality; however, simply using web 2.0 functionality is not sufficient to develop social media networking<br />Social Media is composed of several web platforms that allow you to communicate instead of only informing<br />Networking is a verb and therefore implies action <br />It is personal and better used to tell stories, create dialogue and partnerships <br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    9. 9. What are social media platforms?<br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    10. 10. Why social media?<br />Ten most popular sites on the web: <br />Facebook <br />YouTube<br />Google <br />GMAIL <br />Hotmail <br />Twitter<br />Tumbler <br />Yahoo<br />Skype <br />MSN<br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    11. 11. Facebook… some statistics <br />500 million users worldwide. 10 million in Australia. <br />88% of people know about Facebook. <br />40% of users follow a brand. <br />40% login everyday. <br />Valued at $50 billion. <br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    12. 12. Twitter… some statistics<br />25% of users follow a brand. <br />67% of brand followers purchase that brand. <br />37% login via mobile. <br />53% of users post an update every day. <br />2 million Australian users. <br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    13. 13. SOCIAL MEDIA REVOLUTIONS?<br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    14. 14. “The power of social media: synchronize the behavior of groups quickly, cheaply and publicly in ways unavailable a decade ago”. <br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    15. 15. Middle East and North Africa<br />Population: <br />400 million. <br />Democracy Index: <br />Democracies – 1<br />Hybrid regimes – 3<br />Authoritarian regimes- 16<br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    16. 16. The Baghdad Blogger<br />Salam Pax. <br />Blogged through the 2003 Iraq war. <br />Innovative use of social media in a confined environment.<br />"Anyway, all that doesn’t matter now. Saddam is gone, thanks to you. Was it worth it? Be assured it was. We all know that it got to a point where we would have never been rid of Saddam without foreign intervention; I just wish it would have been a bit better planned."<br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    17. 17. EGYPT<br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    18. 18. Ready for change?<br />85 million Egyptians <br />21 million internet subscriptions <br />With an average consumption of 900 minutes per month<br />4.5 million Facebook users<br />26, 000 Twitter users. <br />Long standing leader – Mubarak <br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    19. 19. Egypt’s State Media<br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    20. 20. Egypt’s State Media<br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    21. 21. | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    22. 22. | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    23. 23. What really happened in Egypt?<br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    24. 24. | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    25. 25. Khaled Said <br />Trigger point. <br />Facebook group – we are all Khaled Said – 87, 000 members.<br />Put a face to a cause. <br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    26. 26. January 24 <br />Khaled Said group promoted a protest event. <br />Google Maps was used to show meeting points. <br />Shared Google documents showed logistical requirements. <br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    27. 27. | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />How do you respond to an uprising?<br />
    28. 28. Speak to Tweet<br />In response and driven from the international community Speak to Tweet was born. <br />Allowed users to call a number and leave a message that was automatically posted to Twitter. <br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    29. 29. Alive in Egypt <br />First advertised on February 2. <br />Collected tweets from speak to tweet. <br />Volunteers collated the data using Google Maps and Skype. <br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    30. 30. Twitter – before, during and after<br />Egyptians were tweeting well before the protests began. <br />As protests took hold Twitter peaked with a flurry of vital information <br />Where were police?<br />Directions?<br />How many?<br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    31. 31. Where were people communicating?<br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    32. 32. Where was the traffic coming from?<br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    33. 33. Social Media Organised Protests<br />Well before the internet shutdown social media was used to organise protests in Egypt. <br />Without these mass organising tools there would have been fewer people on the ground. <br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    34. 34. Social Media Shaped the Narrative<br />In situations of chaos, the side who can quickly shape the narrative that sticks will have the upper hand. <br />Chaos v Revolt. <br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    35. 35. Social Media Pressured Washington<br />Washington was stuck between a rock and hard place. <br />Flood of social media activity would have helped shaped their thinking. <br />Social media showed a truer picture of what was happening. <br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    36. 36. IRAN<br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    37. 37. Background<br />Islamic Republic of Iran<br />Population of 65 million.<br />Mass media state controlled.<br />MahmoudAhmadinejad came to power in 2005. <br />Real power lies with ‘spiritual guardians’. <br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    38. 38. Elections <br />Held on June 12, 2009<br />Four candidates including MahmoudAhmadinejad and Moussavi (reformer). <br />Both candidates claimed victory after first polls. <br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    39. 39. Election Results <br />Directly after the polls closed online sources begin to hint a possible fraud in voting process. <br />Suggestion of fraud led to some protests in Tehran. <br />Received little media attention. <br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    40. 40. June 13 and 14 protests<br />Mainstream media blamed for poor coverage. <br />Al Jazeera English claims Iranian leadership censoring information. <br />NBC in Tehran raided. <br />BBC signal jammed. <br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    41. 41. June 14 and 15 <br />Rumors of Mousavi’s arrest flood the web. <br />Supreme Ayatollah issues slight recount of votes. <br />Iranian football team wear green armbands. <br />US government asks Twitter to postpone downtime. <br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    42. 42. June 19 and 21 <br />Violence escalates. <br />Social media becomes the primary means for communication for citizens. <br />Death of NedaSoltaniBasij becomes rallying point for anti-government protestors. <br />State television reports only 10 people killed. <br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    43. 43. Social Media takes off<br />At its peak 221,000 an hour at its peak. <br />2.2 million blog posts in 24 hours. <br />184, 500 videos on YouTube. <br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    44. 44. What role did Social Media play in Iran<br />Organisation <br />Through Facebook and Twitter for physical action. <br />Participation <br />Correcting the record. <br />#CNNFAIL <br />Communication <br />With each other and the outside world. <br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    45. 45. The revolution spreads<br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    46. 46. What can we learn from Egypt et al<br />We are now living in a new media paradigm. <br />Media ‘entities’ no longer have a monopoly on the news. <br />Citizen journalism.<br />Beginning of the beginning. <br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    47. 47. Stay local, go global<br />The mobile phone now connects local activists to a global audience – photo now, CNN next. <br />Solidarity. <br />Exposure <br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    48. 48. Media as we know it…<br />Social media has drastically changed how conventional media works. <br />Trust and reliability <br />Speed and accuracy <br />Choice <br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    49. 49. Osama Bin Laden <br />News first broke on social media. <br />Was sourced, verified and authenticated before any government figure said a word. <br />Who breaks news now?<br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    50. 50. What does this all mean for Israel?<br />Change can happen in the Middle East. <br />In a social media paradigm it will be rapid and far reaching. <br />The oppressed now have a voice. <br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    51. 51. Is Social Media Social Change<br />Malcolm Gladwell argued that social media cannot provide what social change needs. <br />Connections are weak and built around a media cycle. <br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />
    52. 52. QUESTIONS…<br /> | Twitter @TommyTudehope <br />