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The age of social media: exposing human rights abuses and bringing about political change

Youth forum
December 30, 2014

"Social media has been enormously effective in exposing human rights abuses and in turn garnering mass public support for political change."


The Tunisian Revolution from December 18, 2010 to January 14, 2011 saw the police and authorities violently beating demonstrators. The people of Tunisia faced political corruption, poor living conditions, high inflation and unemployment, and restricted political freedoms and after three weeks of intense protests President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali resigned ending his 23-year rule and ultimately the Constitutional Democratic Rally party was disbanded which paved the way for the democratization of Tunisia.

At its conclusion, close to 300 people were killed and 700 were injured, but the numbers could have been much greater had activists not utilized social media outlets to mobilize the protests. By using Facebook, events were created stating the dates, times and locations for upcoming protests and groups were formed to enlist enormous public support against their leaders. Similarly, people posted explicit pictures and videos of police-led violence on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube which further fueled civil resistance. Furthermore, because the utilization of social media was seen as a huge success for the Tunisian Revolution, it played significant roles in sparking public hate against repressive governments during the Arab Spring and organizing mass protests. Almost four years after the Tunisian Revolution, rulers in Egypt, Libya and Yemen were successfully ousted.

Today, we witness from our laptops and smart phones the atrocities being committed in Ukraine and by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). We have seen the violence through YouTube videos as the police beat rioters in Ukraine during anti-government protests, and we have seen the severely graphic images of executions committed by ISIS. It is because of social media that the world public immediately creates a social cohesion against rulers and governments that find human rights abuses, suffering, and death acceptable. Social media makes us knowledgeable of world events and allows a person from any part of the globe to voice their opinions without fear of being filtered or blocked. With everything considered, without social media it would be near impossible to effectively rally protests against oppression and likewise it would be near impossible to cultivate needed political change in the face of civil unrest.

Jr. Ton La is American, he is 21 years old. He chose this topic because "Social media is more than liking a Facebook post, keeping your friends and family in the moment via Twitter, or posting a video to YouTube. It is the vehicle for immediate political change by uniting people who are otherwise physically distant together to bring passion and sentiments to the forefront."

The content of this column are the sole responsibility of the author and do not represent Vivendi's opinion.

By The Numbers

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