How NO INTERNET is Re-Defining the News

Filed in Guest Post , Journalism , Sharisax Is Out There , Twitter 25 comments

Photo by Susan Ambrosini

The beauty of our Social Media Revolution is that every one of us can become a publisher . . . and spread our opinions, insights, and wisdom.

Though we’ve only had two weeks of classwork for the online Social Media for Journalist course, several of the students have shown their passion, intelligence, and leadership in helping us all co-create the New Normal, i.e., the way to communicate, learn, interact, and act — Now, and in the Future.

One of the outstanding students has been Suzzanna Matthews, who grew up in Boston and studied English Lit at Goldsmith’s College in the UK and at Mills College in Oakland. She currently resides in Oakland and is studying Journalism and Social Media. Here are her thoughts on the explosive situation in the MidEast and the role of social media.

The Internet Shutdown in Egypt:

How the Definition of News is Changing

GUEST POST by Suzzanna Matthews

On January 27th, 2011 – after days of disruptions in internet service, most internet connections went down in Egypt. This shutdown targeted social networking sites Facebook and Twitter. This was an unprecedented event in history, a country in protest and a government shutdown of all major social media communications.

Why? Because, social media sites are viewed as dangerous. These sites were being used as a primary means of communication to rally people to protest. News of these protests was able to reach thousands of people at the stroke of a key.

If an entire country’s government  has such a great fear of what social media can do. then you have to concur that it is indeed powerful.

SPEECH is powerful, and these social media platforms are important in letting people’s voices be heard uncensored.

In various articles I have read about the situation, journalists are reporting that there was and is misinformation being reported about the protests via Twitter and Facebook, but that there is also much more information available to them — and many more leads that they are able to follow up on because of Tweets and Posts. Particularly information coming out of locations that maybe unsafe for foreign journalist travel.

The social media platforms also allow us to read the news from Egyptians living in the midst of the turmoil and to get a sense of what is actually occurring without perhaps a government veil or ‘toned down’ diplomatic version of the events.You can see why it would behoove a government with waning power to halt these types of communications that they may view as damaging and, yes, dangerous.

Even with the shutdown, the people’s voices still found a way to be heard on the web with google’s Speak2Tweet. News of what is happening is being reported by the people — most are not trained journalists and many are just expressing their frustration.

  • Are the voices of Egyptian Tweeters and bloggers less newsworthy as they are not professional journalists?
  • Does the misinformation being reported via social networking sites outweigh the viable information?
  • There is no question that the way news is being related has changed, but as we move away from traditional forms of reporting, how do we need to re-think what ‘news’ actually is?
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Posted by Shari Weiss   @   5 February 2011
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Comments
Feb 6, 2011
4:40 am
#1 Benny Howe :

Hey Shari,

Great post by Suzzanna. I agree totally with Suzzanna’s notion that Social Media could be considered dangerous to Governments.. But there is also a deeper theme just within that sentence.

Cutting off the public’s internet access by the Government is similar to the public cutting off the Government’s tax funding (which is a jailable offence). The Government being afraid of Social Media just highlights that they are working against the people.

Also it is becoming more and more noticeable how mainstream media is becoming ‘propagandised’. Alternative news sources, albeit some with disinformation, is, in my opinion, bringing back critical thinking to the rest of us… Something drummed out of us at school.

You have to filter all of the information that you receive on the internet, to figure out what you perceive as good and what you perceive as disinfo, instead of just taking on what you’re told from the mainstream, not all of which is true either. Surely, to have a critically conscious population is better for all involved?

Tc 🙂

Author Feb 6, 2011
4:21 pm

Benny, as a prof, I am so sorry to hear that your school experience was such that “critical thinking” was drummed out of you and your classmates. Here in the California colleges I have taught at, we all try to include Critical Thinking skills in every course we teach. And, now, with so much info and disinfo “out there,” these critical thinking skills are more important than ever.

Author Feb 6, 2011
12:17 pm

Here’s an article on how journalists are reporting on Egyptian demonstrations using social media: http://mashable.com/2011/01/31/journalists-social-media-egypt/

Feb 6, 2011
4:29 pm

I really enjoy reading this article.

Its a fact that news has been changing, and and twitter and facebook are like “military” force against censorship. When the government shutdown of all major social media communication, twitter and facebook became big force to inform people all over the world.

Like we can read in this article, “In various articles I have read about the situation, journalists are reporting that there was and is misinformation being reported about the protests via Twitter and Facebook, but that there is also much more information available to them — and many more leads that they are able to follow up on because of Tweets and Posts”

In addiction i would say we still need to check the sources like for any other information.

Feb 6, 2011
8:32 pm

Hi Shari, those of us who live in more democratic countries are so fortunate to be able to speak up as we like (or almost). I believe there are too many rules in the world already, but it seems to make things worse when we protest. It just encourages those who make the rules to enforce them even more!

Author Feb 6, 2011
9:39 pm

Julieanne, we are indeed fortunate. There is, however, always a balance; many times someone’s freedom and/or rights will negatively impact someone’s else’s freedom or rights. That, of course, is why we need laws. The problem, then, is who enforces the laws, and what are their intentions.

Feb 7, 2011
3:00 pm
#7 Leanna :

Julieanne, It wouldn’t if there were more people doing it, then they would be very afraid. I think people in general know that but they also know that the will is weak at the moment and don’t trust each other to follow through.

Feb 7, 2011
8:44 pm
#8 Vanessa Jensen :

Amazing post Suzanna! Very true! The government shutdown of all social media sites in Egypt was appalling, social media sites are quite powerful, and this can stir up fear in a government. Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter can rally likeminded people to join forces and find ways to make their voices heard. It’s a VERY powerful tool.

I feel these Tweeters and bloggers may not be “professional” journalists but, these voices are genuine. They are the ones going through the struggle and are speaking from their hearts. To me, this makes their voices MORE newsworthy than the voices of the professionals.

Feb 7, 2011
11:18 pm

Shari~
Freedom of speech is yet another thing that I’ve always taken forgranted (along with health) and I’m so grateful for! I’m glad you created this post so we can be reminded.

For one of my posts a few months ago on lindagraceonline.com I wrote about the truth behind an email I was sent about ‘life in the victorian age’ When I received it a couple years ago I thought it all sounded true, it was from the ‘History Channel’ after all. Before I posted it, I researched it and amazingly enough, it was far from true! The fact that it was from the ‘History Channel’ was the first of many lies!

I feel for the people of Egypt. I feel for the people all over the world who don’t have the freedom government and freedom that I have.

Linda

Author Feb 8, 2011
12:57 am
#10 Shari Weiss :

The first thing that comes to mind when I’m reading your response is that we often don’t “know what we have until we lose it.”

Feb 8, 2011
12:55 am
#11 Champa :

Now if only professional journalists would understand this very idea! For the most part, they view and tweets from “victims” as far too subjective. However, this is hardly the truth. Most publications (print and television) anyway give us a blurred version of what happens in a country like Egypt which is undergoing strife. And when we hear the voices of the locals who are experiencing it all, they are simply dismissed. Technically, their versions of the story is always the truth. I would think so at least!

Feb 9, 2011
9:36 pm
#12 Kathy Jodrey :

Hi Shari,

Wow, what an interesting article! It really demonstrates the amazing power the Internet has, especially through the use of social media tools. There have been rumors of the government trying to shut down the Internet for the very same reasons the Egyptian government did, fear. Today, more than ever before, people have the ability to rally at a moments notice, and to spread news, a cause, or an idea virally in no time at all. If “Big Brother” is watching, he has every reason to be afraid!

Kathy Jodrey

Author Feb 10, 2011
1:30 am
#13 Shari Weiss :

Kathy, I’m reading Clay Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus and I suspect you find it an excellent read. He starts with stories about the power of people to organize via the social web, i.e., ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

Feb 10, 2011
7:06 pm
#14 Billy Rivera :

Suzzanna’s guest blog post is stellar. I’m honored to be taking this class along side her and be challenged to think critically about what’s going on in Egypt.

When the internet was shut down, I couldn’t help but imagine that total chaos ensued. When I look at how I use the internet and social media in my daily life, frankly, I don’t think I could survive without it. From signing into the Peralta site for school info, reading the news, getting directions, public transport schedules, replying to emails, etc., our world revolves around using the web.

Imagine all of the Egyptian students enrolled in online courses. Their life trajectory literally had no choice but to come to a screeching halt. With any corrupt government, one cannot trust what that infrastructure allows to come out; therefore we look to the people for answers and opinions. Let’s hope their phone lines stay open so we can continue to hear their messages via Speak2Tweet.

Feb 10, 2011
7:08 pm
#15 Billy Rivera :

With any corrupt government, one cannot trust info coming from that infrastructure, therefore we look to the people for answers and opinions.

Author Feb 11, 2011
12:09 am
#16 Shari Weiss :

. . . and with the speed and ease of technology, finding info from people is more possible than ever. However, with so much information out there, we have to be careful about what we believe.

Feb 11, 2011
2:13 am
#17 Neysa Ordaz Sifuentes :

@suzzanna

i think your post is great! Its crazy to see that the government of an entire country shut down the internet because it is such a threat to them, really opens our eyes to just how effective the internet is. I cant imagine living in the chaos they have to go through and feel like you have no way of communicating with the world.

great job.

Feb 11, 2011
4:06 am
#18 Mele Mesui :

This post really opens a new perspective of what’s happening in Egypt. I was just focused on the politics, core issues, protests, and riots as I watch the news but I never actually came to think of “How NO INTERNET…” has an effect on the people of Egypt. Very interesting post.

Author Feb 11, 2011
11:49 am
#19 Shari Weiss :

. . . and today’s well-received news of Mubarak stepping down!!

Feb 11, 2011
8:48 am
#20 Terez M. :

How incredible to think of the use of SM as a subversive or revolutionary act! Times indeed are changing and I think that situations like these show the potential for the tech and web evolutions to positively contribute to humanity, not just function as vapid tools for entertainment or distraction.

I agree, it is a very powerful tool, and one that is critical in countering what might be an effective propaganda machine in the media parroting the official line. I was also heartened to hear about the state journalists taking a stand against government interests to censor and control their speech. As you say, we nearly all of us can become a publisher and share information to an almost unlimited audience. These tools can and are used in similar ways right here in Oakland, Ca.

Feb 11, 2011
2:28 pm
#21 Kevin Jennings :

@Suzzanna,
This was a great post. This quote “SPEECH is powerful, and these social media platforms are important in letting people’s voices be heard uncensored.” was nicely stated and has been the topic in a couple of some of our classmate’s post to. I’m glad we’re all on the same page. Looking forwarded to hearing more from you.

Feb 11, 2011
5:16 pm
#22 Nikolas Zelinski :

The conflict in Egypt is a prime example of the power of social media websites. Their ability to send information quickly and efficiently has allowed the youth to solidify their discontent. The youth are the future and I think facebook reminded us of that. And maybe helped the world become a better place?

Feb 18, 2011
4:47 am
#23 Jena :

@Julieanne van Zyl:

its interesting that you praise or ackowldge the privlige most democratic countries have of being able to have free speech and an uncencored internet, yet you make the comment that “protests make it worse.” i am curious if you can elaborate on what you meant by that?

May 23, 2011
7:11 am
#24 Suki :

“Social media sites are viewed as dangerous.” Who would have thought? It makes me think of Facebook and Mark Zuckerburg, this is not what he had in mind when he drunkenly made FB. It’s evolved so much that now it’s considered dangerous and it is when you think about how much is being said on those social networking sites like that.

Dec 14, 2011
3:10 am
#25 Antonia Houston :

That, of course, is why we need laws. I would think so at least! I was just focused on the politics, core issues, protests, and riots as I watch the news but I never actually came to think of “How NO INTERNET…” has an effect on the people of Egypt.

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