June 16, 2017

An Egyptian protest in 2011. Credit: Dan H / Flickr Creative Commons

Well over 5 million people around the world took part in the Women’s March. And hundreds of thousands attended the March for Science. With turnouts like that, you might expect such protests to reflect years of planning and organizational effort. In fact, though, they were organized online in the space of a couple months, using new tools like hashtags and Facebook events. Zeynep Tufekci studies what the rise of connectivity means for the efficacy of the protests. She’s an associate professor at the University of North Carolina, and the author of Twitter and Teargas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest

Three Takeaways: 

  • Protests might be relatively easy to organize now, but that wasn’t always the case. The 1963 March on Washington was the culmination of ten years of movement building, and had to clear significant logistical hurdles in order to happen. 
  • Being able to organize mass protests easily is helpful, but because they aren’t the culmination of movement building, it’s tough to do the necessary logistical work to turn protest into change. 
  • Six years after the Arab Spring, governments have figured out that they can’t censor information completely. But they can distort the perception of that information by challenging its accuracy, sewing doubt, and cultivating distractions. 

More Reading: 

Zeynep Tufekci, Women's March, Culture, Protests, March on Washington

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