Twitter Revolution

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The term Twitter Revolution refer to different revolutions and protests, all of which were coordinated using the social networking site Twitter to plan the protests, mobilize the demonstrators and update the news to all around the world:


In the "Twitter revolution", the relationship between the new media and social movement has three distinct characteristics: 1) The Twitter streams represent the interaction mechanism of ecological network 2) The Twitter streams embedding or be embedded into different types of control process; 3) The Twitter streams reflect the change of social movement ecology.[1]

Positive influence[edit]

According to the study of the Egyptian revolution, American Scholar Linz put forward that there are four ways affect collective action:

  1. Make the disgruntled citizens more coordinated take some public action;
  2. through the information cascade (information cascades) to improve the predictive chance of success
  3. accelarate the cost of the repression of the union movement.
  4. Through information dissemination increase the other regional and global public attention.[2]

Negative influence[edit]

Twitter revolution also has its negative influence to the social movement. Gladwell defined the SNS activity as weak ties and low level organization structure, and put forward that the social relations which constructed through the Internet is very difficult to have the collective action.[3] Additionally, It is a challenge of the social practice of using social media for political information construction and dissemination of democratic consultation, therefore, political culture, and social participation of ideological discourse problems created by the social media becomes very important.[4] For example, “Oxford girl” successful at gaining publicity for herself than at helping any protesters in Iran. Compare her 10,000 Twitter followers with the 300 followers of a Karaj-based Green activist (who prefers not to be identified or to have his Twitter page publicized). The activist tweets in Persian, which few Western journalists can read, and he is often a source of valuable information about the mood in the country. The story of Oxford girl gives a clue about the real role that Twitter played. There is no doubt that she helped spread news about the Iranian protests—often very quickly. Twitter played an important role in getting word about the events in Iran out to the wider world. Together with YouTube, it helped focus the world's attention on the Iranian people's fight for democracy and human rights. New media over the last year created and sustained unprecedented international moral solidarity with the Iranian struggle—a struggle that was being bravely waged many years before Twitter was ever conceived.[5] Thirdly, as the restrictions of the technical and social capital, minority voice are easy to be ignored and thus, the discourse right of ordinary audience was again put on the agenda.[6]

Case Study: Twitter Revolution in Iran[edit]

“Twitter revolution” is distinguished from other forms of activism because of the means by which the cyber activists communicate and aggregate through Twitter. It is an example of how social media facilitates communication among people globally in political revolutions. It challenges the traditional relationship between political authorities and popular, allowing the powerless to “collaborate, coordinate, and give voice to their concerns”. [3]

During 2009–2010 Iranian election protests, Twitter and other similar websites succeeded in spreading the information and let people know around the world what was going on in Iran, while the mainstream, western media such as CNN failed to cover the news. According to Evgeny Morozov, a scholar at Stanford and a blogger for Foreign Policy magazine, the widespread belief that Twitter was the major platform of Iranian youth to plan mass scale protests online lacks sufficient supporting evidence, because in this way the authorities would be able to monitor and suppress the movement. Instead, Twitter is mainly “used to publicize protests that are already going on—and bring the world's attention to the acts of violence committed by the regime”. [7] Here Twitter had played a role beyond its intended function as social media where people get connected to their acquaintances and friends online. “Without Twitter the people of Iran would not have felt empowered and confident to stand up for freedom and democracy,” Mark Pfeifle, a former national-security adviser wrote. The contribution of Twitter in disseminating news from Green Revolution is recognized by Obama administration. On June 15 afternoon, the State Department official Jared Cohen sent Twitter an email, requesting it to “delay scheduled maintenance of its global network, which would have cut off service while Iranians were using Twitter to swap information and inform the outside world about the mushrooming protests around Tehran”. [8] Iran government also chose to block websites Facebook and Twitter roughly a month prior the June 12 presidential elections.


However, some scholars also doubt the significance of Twitter’s role in the political upheaval. Golnaz Esfandiari wrote in Foreign Policy magazine that the majority of Twitter posts concerning demonstrations were products of Western users: “It's time to get Twitter's role in the events in the Iran right. Simply put: there was no Twitter Revolution inside Iran.” She claims that bloggers like Andrew Sullivan, who was famous for his twitts about Tehran revolution, misunderstood the situation.This journalist argues that activists who were opposed to the main political power tended to use Internet sources like text messages, email, and blog posts for communication in organizing of protest actions. Meanwhile,"good old-fashioned word of mouth" was most influential medium for coordinating opposition, as she writes. Also Esfandiari added that social media tools like Facebook and Twitter were not ideal for rapid communication among protestors.[10] “Western journalists who couldn’t reach—or didn’t bother reaching?—people on the ground in Iran simply scrolled through the English-language tweets post with tag #iranelection,” she wrote. “Through it all, no one seemed to wonder why people trying to coordinate protests in Iran would be writing in any language other than Farsi.” [11] So the voice of native Iranian writing tweets in Farsi about the situation in their country is nearly absent. Moreover, Evgeny Morozov affirms stress the importance of covering the events by bilingual Iranian bloggers. In his opinion only people who are deeply involved into process can comprehensibly describe the current situation. Wherethrough western commentators don't clearly understand the real situation because of language barriers and only the small percentage of curious and demanding "Internety gurus" tryied to use automatic translators and somehow approximate to the root of the problem. [12] David Rothkopf proposes that the idea of “Twitter revolution” is an overstatement. Even though it raised political awareness and increase participation through retweeting and reposting, there is no involvement of sacrifice, courage, physical confrontation and risk that real revolutions and real changes require. [13]

Case Study: Twitter Revolution in Egypt[edit]

In Egypt Revolution of 2011, the oppositional movement against the ruling of Mubarak was active on various platforms of social media. For example, “the hashtag #Jan25th was used to mobilize protesters on Twitter” to join the demonstration on Jan 25th on Tahrir Square. Along with other methods such as text message, flyers and words of mouth, it drew a crowd of 80,000 to the street of Cairo on that day. Similar to its Iranian correspondent, Egypt government shut down the access to Twitter in the afternoon on the day of gathering. [14] The connection had not been restored until February 2. [15]

Moreover, Twitter was applied to communicate with the audience outside Egypt to “globalized the movement and win international support to protect and sustain the uprising”. The worldwide audience was also able to have constant update with the situation in Egypt, besides simply listening to the State’s point of view.[4] As consequences, the revolution succeeded in the resignation of Mubarak in February 11, ending his dictatorship lasted for over 3 decades. An article in the magazine Wired states that social media did not cause the Egypt revolution. Rather, Twitter and Facebook were more like “a spark and an accelerant”, “catalyzing pro-democracy movements”. They have had the most potent impact in “what has shocked most observers of the current Egyptian scene: the sheer speed with which the regime fell — 18 days”. [16]

Case study: Twitter Revolution in Ukraine (Euromaidan)[edit]

After president Viktor Yanukovich rejection to sign the EU-Ukraine agreement on November 21, 2013, a mass protest took place on the ‘European square’ in Kiev.[17] The event was massively spread through Twitter with the hashtags #euromaidan, #євромайдан and #евромайдан.[18] The political situation in Ukraine increased the Twitter subscribers from 6,000 new accounts in November 2013 to 55,000 in January 2014. Average amount of daily tweets grew from 90,000 in 2012 to 130,000 during the protests. It reached a peak the 20th of February 2014, when dozens of protesters were killed. The same day 240,000 tweets were written.[19] Although many of the tweets were written in English, according to geotags analysis, 69% of them were tweeted from Ukraine. This indicates that those tweets were posted mostly by Ukrainians themselves.[20] On the 27th of January, 2014 a ‘Twitterstorm’ was launched in order to attract global attention to the protest itself and to initiate sanctions towards the president at the time Viktor Yanukovich. Ukrainian Twitterati addressed tweets with the hashtag #digitalmaidan to foreign media, politicians and international organizations. The hashtag then topped worldwide Twitter trends.[21] Ukrainians might have been influenced to use Twitter under the Euromaidan because of the impact Twitter had for other protests.[20]


  1. ^ Alexandra Segerberg & W. Lance Bennett, Social Media and the Organization of Collective Action: using Twitter to explore the ecologies of two climate change protests.
  2. ^ Lynch, Marc. After Egypt: The limits and promise of online challenges to the authoritarian Arab state. Perspectives on Politics.
  3. ^ a b Gladwell, Malcolm (Oct 4, 2010). "Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted". The New York Times. Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr. Retrieved May 18, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Lim, Merlyna. Clicks, Cabs, and Coffee Houses: Social Media and Oppositional Movements in Egypt, 2004-2011. Journal of Communication.
  5. ^ Esfandiari, Golnaz (Jun 7, 2010). "The Twitter Devolution". Foreign Policy. The Washington Post Company. Retrieved May 18, 2014. 
  6. ^ Valenzuela, Sebastian, Arturo Arriagada & Andres Scherman (2012). The Social Media Basis of Youth Protest Behavior: The Case of Chile. Journal of Communication.
  7. ^ Morozov, Evgeny (Jun 17, 2009). "Iran Election: A Twitter Revolution?". The Washington Post. The Washington Post Company. Retrieved May 22, 2014. 
  8. ^ Landler, Mark; Stelter, Brian (Jun 16, 2009). "Washington Taps Into a Potent New Force in Diplomacy". The New York Times. Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr. Retrieved Jun 10, 2014. 
  9. ^ Sheikholeslamiwork, Ali (May 23, 2009). "Iran Blocks Facebook, Twitter Sites Before Elections (Update1)". Bloomberg. Retrieved Jun 10, 2014. 
  10. ^ Keller, Jared (Jun 18, 2010). "Evaluating Iran's Twitter Revolution". The Atlantic. Retrieved Nov 24, 2014. 
  11. ^ Gladwell, Malcolm (Oct 4, 2010). "Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted". The New Yorker. Retrieved Nov 24, 2014. 
  12. ^ Morozov, Evgeny (Jun 17, 2009). "Iran Election: A Twitter Revolution?". The Washington Post. The Washington Post Company. Retrieved Nov 25, 2014. 
  13. ^ Rothkopf, David (Jun 17, 2009). "There is no such thing as virtual revolution...". Foreign Policy Magazine. The Washington Post Company. Retrieved May 22, 2014. 
  14. ^ Murphy, Dan (January 25, 2011). "Inspired by Tunisia, Egypt's protests appear unprecedented". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved June 10, 2014. 
  15. ^ "Egypt internet comes back online". BBC News. 2 February 2011. Retrieved June 10, 2014. 
  16. ^ Gustin, Sam (Feb 11, 2011). "Social Media Sparked, Accelerated Egypt’s Revolutionary Fire". Wired Magazine. Condé Nast. Retrieved Jun 10, 2014. 
  17. ^ Danilova, Maria (Nov 22, 2013). "Ukraine’s PM booed after snubbing EU, turning to Moscow". Retrieved Nov 25, 2014. 
  18. ^ Talaga, Tanya (Feb 5, 2014). "How social media is fuelling Ukraine's protests". Retrieved Nov 25, 2014. 
  19. ^ Lokot, Tetyana (Sep 1, 2014). "Russian Social Networks Dominate in Ukraine Despite Information War". Retrieved Nov 25, 2014. 
  20. ^ a b Barberá, Pablo; Metzger, Megan (Dec 4, 2013). "How Ukrainian protestors are using Twitter and Facebook". Retrieved Nov 25, 2014. 
  21. ^ Lyushnevskaya, Yana (Nov 21, 2014). "Social media shape Ukraine political debate". Retrieved Nov 25, 2014.