The Dawn of Twitter : The Long-Lost Friend of The Social Media and #Bersih5

Written by Kama

“If you know how to tweet, you know how to FB. But… if you know FB, you most probably do not know how to tweet! It’s totally different compared to facebook and it’s microblogging of the recent activity that happens across the world,” a close friend told me.

I must say when I first started in tweeting my thoughts and views and even some juicy gossip online as well as creating more twitter followers or friends circle through Twitter, I was clueless in the beginning. How do I do this tweeting? The uniqueness of twitter comes to the number of characters it allows and hence the update is very direct to the point and able to capture everyone’s attention since it is made of a few words or pictures. Twitter only allows me to be brief and short because it only allows users to microblog within 140 characters. As the saying goes KISS : keep it sweet and simple. In the recent years, Twitter has been studying the users and rumors have it that twitter might allow users to tweet longer in the future. Among other things, twitter also keeps an eye to the patterns of users and their tweets especially if the tweets are considered radical and against the norms.

Recently, in the light of terrorism, twitter has taken a measurable step to curb such activity within the Twitter community. Twitter is also used by a certain quarters to ingrain ideas of terrorism. AFP reported in August, Twitter had cut off 235,000 accounts during the past six months in a heightened crackdown on use of the global messaging service to promote violent extremist causes. The suspensions raised to 360,000 the total number of accounts sidelined since the middle of 2015 and was helping “drive meaningful results” in curbing the activity. Twitter just like any other social media helps to bring people together. As in Malaysia, today marks a memorable day for Malaysians as the Bersih fifth rally is coming down to major cities in Malaysia and Kuala Lumpur is no exception. Places of gathering include Dataran Merdeka and KLCC. But how does the organizer manage such large group of masses?

Bersih5 or #Bersih5 rally uses twitter as one of the communication mean to bring forward their ideas and inform the participants of their new information other than the usual conventional way. There is also #Bersih5live in promoting the live update of the situation in Bersih 5 rally that is happening at the moment. Bersih rally which has been around since November 2006 has now turns into a yearly activity to promote certain ideas  by the organizer as one of the main objectives is to have a “bersih” election and government. In order to manage the large crowd, the use of technology is pivotal and comes in handy. In the previous rally, the Internet became the main source to disseminate all the information during the 2011 Bersih as noted by Sheriff (2011);

Facebook became the main source of information about the July 9 rally in Kuala Lumpur, and the Twitterverse lit up. A new generation, well-versed in the advantages of online activism and emboldened by the relative anonymity of social media, took courage from protestors across the Middle East and came forward to support the movement. On July 9, the number of Twitter users talking about the Bersih rally reached 19,188, according to the website Politweet.

The impact of new media through the use of the Internet has shown its’ greatest influence in the Egyptian crisis. The crisis was mainly because of the raging new media information which toppled down Hosni Mubarak’s corrupted leadership in his 23 years of tenure. Sutter (2011) cited that as violent demonstrations continue on the streets of Egypt — where many are upset with the results of Hosni Mubarak’s 30 years in power — technology pundits and bloggers are trying to sort out the internet’s role in the situation.

Others say the fact that protests have continued despite these digital barricades reveals a massive hole in the argument that social media spawns modern revolutions.  Sutter (2011) noticed it is an enticing idea, particularly for those who are in the business of social media and have a personal stake of sorts in tallying each instance of social media’s global value making headlines. Twitter punditry had been peppered with speculation about whether upheaval in Tunisia or the subsequent anti-government protests in Egypt might amount to the ‘first’ true revolution spawned by social media.

Fast forward to 21st century, in the Internet era of the technology, one may think the Internet is not relevant to create a rebellion. Are internet technologies, such as social media ie Facebook and twitter, cause of rallies and demonstrations or just the same tool like many other forms of communication we had earlier? Does the Internet help politics to expand its impact? We take a look at Tahrir Square Revolution in 2011. The impact of new media through the use of the Internet has shown its great influence in the Egyptian crisis or the Arab Spring. The crisis which happened caused by the raging new media information that toppled down Hosni Mubarak’s corrupted leadership in his 20 over years of tenure.  According to Beaumont (2011),

All of them are images that have found their way on to the internet through social media sites. And it’s not just images. In Tahrir Square I sat one morning next to a 60-year-old surgeon cheerfully tweeting his involvement in the protest. The barricades today do not bristle with bayonets and rifles, but with phones.

We can conclude that the phones or the use of technology helped in the revolution at Tahrir Square or known the Twitter Revolution which toppled down the dictatorship of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak who was in the position for the president. It proved to the world the power of the fifth estate or the media and in this case the social networking media with the help of the Internet assisted to bring down a government.  From the event of Tahrir Square, the Internet helped to disseminate information quick and easy and hence the action can be carried out swiftly.

The Internet could be used as a medium to give a possible desirable effect to the government and politics is now done in the cyberspace. There are numbers of political blogs in Malaysia either coming from the pro-government or the opposition and the impact of this makes blogs as a great tool for disseminating the information. One important research within our local context that demonstrates the growing interest towards the internet politics was conducted by Mohd Azizuddin, M. S. (2009), who found that the true impact of these new media in the reports and coverage on the Internet.

He noted that the Internet was strong enough to influence people to vote for the opposition-party Pakatan Rakyat in the 2008 general election and observed one of the by-elections in the country, he noted ‘one key reason for this was that young Internet-savvy voters obtain their news chiefly from pro-opposition alternative media, which they perceive as more credible than mainstream media’.

Everybody is well aware, the public turns to the new media in getting more information on politics since the main stream media eg the television, newspapers and magazines are only portraying the government and not the opposition parties. Williams (2003) cited that hegemony is an impression created by classical Marxism that, in crude terms, people are brainwashed by the dominant class. It rejects the view of people as passive recipients of the dominant, class ideology of the bourgeoisie. But how does the government help to counterattack the emerging number of media social users that support pro-opposition?

In one of the measures taken by the government with its effort to ensure that the information gathered from the Internet is not single sided opposition-favoured, the government has come out with a solution by providing the public with its information to combat the allegations by the oppositions through its official social media.  The Internet is common these days. The Internet has become a necessity these days. With the use of smart phones, one cannot avoid to use the Internet at their fingertip. During a recent survey released by MCMC,

it is revealed that 90.1% of users access the Internet via their smartphones. This is also  apparent  in  the  Internet  User  Survey  2014  whereby  it  found  that  the  Internet  accessibility trend through hand phone has increased from 18.4% in 2006 to 63.3% in 2014 (The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission 2015).

The use of the Internet has become a need to some in order to gain information and such information could be the one not available through the mainstream media. The last 20 years have seen the rapid transformation of media especially those of social media which utilizes the Internet heavily and transformed the way we do things differently now. Everybody turns to the Internet in getting more information on politics since the mainstream media eg the television, newspapers and magazines are only portraying the government and not the opposition parties. Mohd Azizuddin, M. S. (2009) proved this,

all mainstream media are directly controlled by either the government, such as Radio and Television Malaysia (RTM), or by companies that have a close link with the BN’s top leadership, such as Utusan Malaysia, New Straits Times, TV3, and NTV7. Their relationships with leadership make them favorable to the ruling BN. Many opposition party members and civil society activists who oppose the government turn to blogs and online news portals to channel their views and dissent against the government.

This means those with opposition views only have the Internet to gain followers, express and disseminate their view on issues regarding the ruling the government. These past few years, we have heard rallies after rallies to show dissatisfaction among the public which were carried out to the street. It seems like the street rallies have become a norm in our country.

As of now, the number of tweets at Bersih2, the official Bersih twitter account, is nearly 29,700 tweets and followers as many as 74,100 followers. The numbers keep growing in line with the rally which just happened today. But some have wondered if the number of Twitter users have grown? Does twitter have growing numbers of users and could be the next Facebook? Can we expect twitter to be on par as facebook?

In the contrary, the recent news reported by Reuters (July 2015), twitter number of monthly average users grew at the slowest pace and this affected the shares, Twitter Inc. since it went public in 2013. But things are patching up now as the number of users increases and we can expect even Mak Cik Senah to own her own twitter account as to know the latest local artist gossip. It is reported by Sparks (2016) daily active users were up 7% year over year. This is notably an acceleration from Twitter’s 5% increase in daily active users in its second quarter and its 3% growth in its first quarter. As a conclusion, Twitter could be used as a tool for dissemination of information but to a certain extend the numbers of characters post might hinder the users to utilize it to the max. We can hope the impact of twitter can be manipulated either through positivity or negativity.

References

Beaumont, P. (2011) The truth about Twitter, Facebook and the uprisings in the Arab world. The Guardian UK. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/feb/25/twitter-facebook-uprisings-arab-libya

Mohd Azizuddin, M. S. (2009) The emergence of new politics in Malaysia from consociational to deliberative democracy. Taiwan Journal of Democracy, 5 (2). pp. 97-125. Retrieved from http://repo.uum.edu.my/7257/

Sheriff, N. (2011, Aug 17). Malaysia’s Silent Awakening. The Nation. Retrieved from  http://www.thenation.com/article/malaysias-silent-awakening/

Sparks, D. (2016) Twitter, Inc. Earnings Highlight a Nice Uptick in Active Users. The Motley Fool. Retrieved from http://www.fool.com/investing/2016/10/27/twitter-inc-earnings-highlight-a-nice-uptick-in-ac.aspx

Sutter, J. D. (2011, January 31). Making Sense of the Internet and Egypt. Cable News Network (CNN). Retrieved 15 November 2011 from http://edition.cnn.com/2011/TECH/web/01/31/egypt.internet/

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission. (2015, Oct 8). MCMC Releases Handphone and Internet Users Survey 2014 [Press Release]. Retrieved from http://www.skmm.gov.my/skmmgovmy/media/General/pdf/Internet-Users-Survey-

Image Credit: FreeMalaysiaToday Image Source

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