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Friday, June 8, 2012

Social Media, Civil Rights, Civil Liberties

In recent years individuals and groups involved in civil liberties and civil rights issues on both the left and right have increasingly used social media to promote their cause. One may find examples from the United States and other countries as well.

1. A conservative magazine praised Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI) for his sophisticated use of social media:
Yesterday Rep. Amash spoke at this weeks “Blogger’s Briefing,” a weekly discussion group held every week at the Heritage Foundation. . . .

Amash was an obvious pick to speak at such an event, having embraced social media with active followings on Facebook and Twitter. On his Facebook page, Amash explains each of his votes. Given that Amash’s record of voting on every vote called in the House, it is an active as well as informative page. Not only are Amash’s votes explained, but Amash himself gets involved in some the discussions that develop on the site.
Being the second youngest member of the House it is perhaps unsurprising how comfortable Amash is with social media engagement. However, what has surprised Amash are the issues that generate the most interest and passion.
When asked what topics engaged the most people on his own social media outlets Amash replied, “Civil liberties are by far the most engaging.” NDAA, SOPA, and other alphabet-soup legislation attract the most attention and discussion, more so than the economy, healthcare, foreign policy, or social matters. Of course, the fact that these discussions are happening on social media means that privacy issues are going to be dominant, yet it is not only internet and copyright issues that concern Amash’s followers. The Patriot Act, TSA overreach, and government surveillance are all discussed and debated.
2. A Canadian newspaper highlighted the use of social media by young Palestinians for political purposes.
With a lack of consensus in the Palestinian camp on various issues and numerous obstacles to the two main political processes – the political process with Israel and internal Palestinian reconciliation – social network users are channeling their energy in new directions. The younger generation in Gaza and the West Bank is engaged in a lively debate on social networking sites on three major subjects: the Palestinian problem; the approach to the Palestinian leadership; and the transition from violent struggle to non-violent struggle, namely, from terrorism to popular uprising through demonstrations and non-violent actions, including the hunger strike by those held in administrative detention in Israel. . . .
The Palestinians are engaged in obsessive documentation of actions by the IDF and residents of the territories, and they have at their disposal various media and new media channels. This allows them to disseminate unprocessed materials through You Tube, Facebook, and Twitter and among newspapers and television networks. For example, the incident in which the Danish activist was struck by the deputy commander of the Jordan Valley Brigade was used in order to strengthen claims by the Palestinians about Israeli brutality toward Palestinians and other foreigners in the territories. They are proving proficient at obtaining pictures that are worth a thousand words.
3. The Israeli government also uses social media to defend its actions.
The Israel Defense Forces Spokesman's Office is to begin drafting computer experts with an eye toward establishing an Internet and new media department unit, Army Spokesman Brig. Gen. Avi Benayahu said Monday.
Speaking at the Eilat Journalists Conference, Benayahu said the new department would focus on the Internet's social media networks mainly to reach an international audience directly rather than through the regular media.
The new unit, as well as an initiative by the Information and Diaspora Ministry to train people to represent Israel independently on the Internet and in other arenas, were presented Monday at the conference during a panel discussion on Israeli public relations abroad.
Responding to criticism of Israel's ability to face hostile entities on the Web, Benayahu said the new program would be able to deal with the problem. He said that from each group drafted to the Army Spokesman's Office, between eight to 10 young people who are experts in Web 2.0 - YouTube, Facebook and Twitter - to be identified before induction, would be assigned to the new department. The new recruits would be put to work in the new media unit after undergoing a general Army Spokesman's Unit training course.