The world changed. And, with it, the way the media coverage of events is done. Real time communication imposed through social media, which started to host increasingly more the so called citizen journalists.
The wait for television or radio in order to know the news fell flat. The internet became the main access means, and Twitter’s immediacy became one of the main information sources for journalists.
The last minute concept, and the “breaking news” as we know them, is dead. Social media is now competition for reporters.
On June 6th, 2015, rebels in Sa’dah, in Yemen, launched a missile to the city of Khamis Mushayt, in Saudi Arabia.
The missile nearly reached its destination, if it wasn’t for the two missiles launched by the military forces of Saudi Arabia which intercepted the it in the middle of its trajectory.
The reason? Twitter.
The Lieutenant General Vincent Stweart announced the episode during the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA) dinner, on July 30th of 2015.
“The first warning of that event: ‘hashtag scudlaunch’… Someone tweeted that a Scud had been launched, and that’s how we started to search for this activity.”
According to BBC Monitoring, which analyses local media in more than 100 languages in 150 countries, it noticed several tweets of diverse users that reported the missile’s launch in real time.
At 2:45, the hour of the interception, the user @MiZo729 tweets: «Urgent: strong explosion heard in the surroundings of Abha!».
At 3:31, the user @7kayaa6 published a short video that showed the attack sirens: «Warning sirens in the city, a military missile was shot against Khamis Mushait and was, fortunately, intercepted by a Patriot missile and destroyed».
At 4:05, a video of the event was already circulating on YouTube.
Shortly after, the events reached the media. At 5:45, the Saudi Press Agency officially announced the event in its Twitter account.
By 8:13, the Associated Press sent the alarm of a last hour news and, 23 minutes after, AlJazeera English transmitted its own story.
This episode shows well the importance of social media in the minute by minute report.
In conflict situations, the real time characteristic offered by social media becomes even more vital to give a never before seen perspective.
Traditional media no longer hold the monopoly of how catastrophes and war are visually portrayed
Today, 350 million photos are updated on Facebook every day, 27,800 photos are shared on Instagram every minute and 20% of all images in the history of photography were taken in the last two years.
The image has become dominant in communication.
Welcome to the era of technology.
From user to «produser»
Despite the banality of many photos published on social media, several people use these tools to awaken consciences and document atrocities, conflicts and causes.
In an era where the user also has the role of the producer and becomes the «produser», it is the social media that allow this content share and different perspective on events.
Thus, the visual gains a power capable of mobilizing citizens around the world.
On December 17th, 2010, in Tunisia, Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire to protest after the police had confiscated its fruit and vegetables stand.
Fuel had been poured over a fire that would come to spread across the country.
Images and videos of a hospitalized Mohamed Bouazizi circulated in a family and friends network, via online. Uprising movements were organized on Facebook and Twitter, appealing to the revolution and the mass protest against the political repression of the president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, as well as against the generalized poverty and the high unemployment rates.
The Government tried to banish social media and video websites such as DailyMotion and YouTube. But the attempts failed: within days, social media was the instrument of choice of the people supportive of the democracy.
Less than 20% of the population in Tunisia used social media in an active way, but the majority had access to a cellphone.
The revolt, called «The Jasmine Revolution» in the media, forced the president to escape the country on January 16th of 2011.
The uprising’s success was the inspiration for countries in the Middle East and in Northern Africa, where protests spread like fire. The Arab Spring was in motion.
Everything thanks to social media: technologies helped democracy supporters to build extensive communication networks between them, and to organize the political action.
The saying that dictated before that the revolution wouldn’t be broadcasted in TV suffered a 180º turn.
This time, the revolution was tweeted.
As the disturbances in Egypt escalated, people resorted more and more to Twitter to report what was going on. The rapidly created hashtag reported this new way of making a revolution: #Twitterrevolution.
The phenomenon reached comedy shows in the USA while Jon Stweart, on The Daily Show, used social media’s recent power to criticize the Government.
“If two speeches and a social media site is all we needed to spread democracy then why did we invade Iraq, why didn’t we just, I don’t know, poke them.”
Activism in the web
However, not only activism ways changed.
The so called «Clicktivism», based on the paradox of taking action at a distance of a click, in the comfort of a sofa or a chair, was always seen with a negative connotation.
The world became indivisible from the Internet and social media, especially for the youth that was born under the influence of these new technologies.
If, on one hand, people commit and involve in the virtual world: on the other, it is impossible not to do so in the real world.
With the promise of improving this world, it is impossible not to call for change through the social media.
In December of 2014, in a 16-hour siege done to a café in Sidney, Australia, two hostages died.
The consequence of this action quickly reached social media. Several anti-Muslim messages spread and, along with them, an opposite hashtag was born: #illridewithyou. The goal? To emotionally support Muslims persecuted in public transportation.
It all started when the Facebook population picked on a post done by Rachel Jacobs. In it, the user tells having seen a Muslim woman taking off her hijab in order to avoid being victimized in public. Rachel approached her and offered to escort her, to protect her from possible harassments.
After the incidents at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in January of 2015, social media woke up with support messages through the black image with the sentence «Je suis Charlie».
But this wasn’t an isolated gesture.
In Instagram, more than a million results showed the iconic image. A day after the attack, the hashtag #jesuischarlie was used 6,500 times per minute.
The hashtags #jesuischarlie and #illridewithyou are two examples of «Clicktivism» in its most generous and solidary side. This kind of activism isn’t lazy or disconnected, on the contrary, it moves crowds not only in the virtual world, but also in the real world.
By the second
August 6th, 2011. 9 p.m. Several curious messages spread on Twitter.
Later, the hashtag #TottenhamRiots became a trending topic. People used Twitter to know more information and news about the turmoil in London, as well as letting friends and loved ones know that they were safe.
The news about a protest against the death of Mark Duggan by the police that had escalated to violence were exchanged between Twitter users long before journalists have reached the location.
During the riots, which spread across the city of London, social media performed an important role to identify and capture the responsible.
The police even came to use social media to investigate several suspects and to prevent new cases of vandalism and future damages.
Once again, social media changed the world.
However, the use of social media, especially in war context, has a downside.
It is important to think twice before posting in social media. And for the soldiers in the war between Russia and Ukraine, this is a matter of life and death.
The growing use of Facebook and its Russian equivalent, Vkontake, has already costed lives and damages to many of the conflict’s troops.
On one side, selfies and soldiers’ posts tell their families and friends about their well-being. On the other, they reveal the troops’ geographic locations.
Social media didn’t just change the journalistic world, but also activism.
Whether is something simple as liking a page, sharing opinions or document actions that we consider wrong, internet has opened a totally new path towards change.
With or without «likes», the world will never be the same again.