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The social network and the power of social movements

It seems hard to believe a website created in 2004 to help college students at Harvard share social information would have the power to help fuel political movements around the world. Wasn’t the idea to let students post their photos online and find out someone’s relationship status?

 

As the Facebook movie, “The Social Network,” wins Golden Globes and Academy Awards, the site is also receiving notoriety for helping assemble young political activists in Tahrir Square, Egypt. Social media, in particular Facebook, were prime vehicles for amassing young, pro-democracy supporters for rigorous political debate online and disseminating information on meetings and rally locations.
Today, the “April 6 Youth Movement” group on Facebook – which launched its page back in 2008 to help raise awareness for striking workers in Mahalla al-Kobra – has more than 86,000 members and it’s likely the Mubarak regime would not have toppled this month if Egyptian students and young professionals hadn’t leveraged the power of Facebook. Even a government-forced Internet shutdown couldn’t dilute the strength of the community offline.
As the pro-democracy wave spreads to other areas of the Middle East, this may likely serve as one of the earliest case studies of social media’s impacts on political movements. The brilliance of Facebook, with its 500 million users, is its ability not only to share and communicate but to literally create offline movements.
I wonder if this was Mark Zuckerberg’s vision as he programmed the site from his Harvard dorm room.

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