Although in some cases it may seem otherwise, political power always lies with the people. Since social media networks are now the most common platforms for the people to express their voice, it’s no surprise that the likes of Twitter and Facebook are seen as tools powerful enough to topple regimes.
The first and most powerful demonstration to date of social media as a powerful political platform occurred through its role during the Arab Springs. Whilst the extent social media had in toppling regimes and promoting revolution in the likes of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya is debated, it’s clear that different social media platforms actively played a key role in spreading information and promoting insurgent agendas. This is to the extent that the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings are now both dubbed as the Twitter Revolutions.
In essence, though social media platforms did not actually start these revolutions and uprisings, their roles in facilitating communications, which is vital for discontent to grow into uprisings and for uprisings to in turn develop into revolutions, were paramount.
More To Come
The general feeling throughout the world amongst political analysts is that we are yet to see the full extent of social media’s political power in relaying information and rallying masses towards discontent, uprisings and revolutions.
Any platform that gives the people a voice is a potential tool for voicing discontent. Furthermore, the ability to voice discontent amongst a large audience is a fundamental tool for revolution.
There is much to suggest that governments around the world acknowledge the potential power social media can hold. In China, the likes of YouTube, Google+, Wordpress and Mobile Wikipedia are banned, whilst the ban on Facebook and Twitter was only lifted this summer.
In North Korea’s totalitarian state, the likes of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are also banned, as are almost everything else that emits from the West.
Furthemore, social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook are also banned in Iran.
All of this would suggest that there is an understanding that social media networks are potential tools that can be used against the state.
Although there are financial benefits to China using their own social media networks – with their two biggest platforms, QZone and Tencent Weibo boasting 712 million and 507 million users respectively – it’s clear that cultural and political implications are also largely behind the Western social media ban in China.
The political power of social media isn’t just about empowering the people however. Social media websites are a key tool in the campaigns of political figures vying for office. Reaching out to voters is essential for politicians and social media networks provide the perfect platforms for this to be made possible.
Political campaigns are similar to marketing campaigns and it’s no secret that social media networks are invaluable marketing tools. They are parts of integrated strategies implemented in political campaigns.
It is now mandatory for political figures to have both a website and a Twitter page in order to reach out to the people. Furthermore, it is expected of them to engage and interact with people in order to utilize these tools effectively.