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The Social Media of Political Change

On Tuesday, August 19th a video of the beheading of an American journalist by terror group ISIS surfaced on YouTube. Yes, YouTube, the same website we look to for music, cats, and pranks was used as a platform for terror and threats. We live in a world where there is unlimited knowledge, and unlimited channels of spreading that knowledge in a matter of seconds. So, what does this virtual freedom mean for political movements? We first heard of ISIS back in early June when a group of Sunni militants seized several government offices, police stations, and an airport in the city of Mosul, Iraq. Since then, the terror group has killed several journalists sparking Americans’ outrage and pressure on politicians to take action. ISIS’s extreme brutality is not the only thing that sets it apart from other terrorist organizations. It has created an online propaganda machine through site such as YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram effectively recruiting members, spreading its mission, and receiving donations. As a result, several social media sites have been working with governmental organizations to take this media down. Tech-savvy terrorists pose several challenges when it comes to international politics, and ISIS will surely change the way the government deals with cyber security issues. Although social media can be used to spread fear as ISIS has done, it can also be a springboard for activism and solidarity among different groups of people. Back in early July as the fighting erupted between Israelis and Palestinians, so did the discourse among many people in the United States. I remember sharing coffee with some friends from Tufts, and all of a sudden, complete strangers were joining in on our conversations about the implications of violence and the morality of the issues. I received a great deal of news updates from my personal Twitter account, and it seemed that everyone was eager to share their opinions on the fighting through various social media platforms. One of the stories that kept reappearing on my feed was about solidarity movements between Palestinians and protestors in Ferguson. Palestinians were sharing advice with Ferguson protestors about how to deal with teargas and rubber bullets that the police were using to break up protests. Many took to twitter to stand in solidarity with those who were speaking out against police brutality. This story left the most impact because it clearly demonstrated the effects that globalism and technology have had on the relationships between international communities. I believe we are entering an era of cyber political activism. What do you think?

-Shivani Shendye A17

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