Naureen Aqueel

Cyber activism: A little birdie told me…

Posted on: June 7, 2009

An edited version of this article was published in CIO Pakistan magazine, July 2009.

Twitter has provided a new forum in cyberspace to draw attention to a cause or event. The most recent case in point relating to Pakistan was the Twenty20 World Cup Finals when Pakistan Cricket made it to the trending topics on Twitter, the term used to describe the ten most talked about topics on the network.

In a patriotic attempt to draw attention to Pakistan to uplift the morale of Pakistanis and make a global impact, a group of digital activists launched an e-rally to support their national team in the Twenty20 finals. To make a topic a trending topic enough people must mention a certain keyword in their tweets enough times for it to feature on the Twitter home page trending topics.

By launching an e-rally across cyberspace motivating people to include the hashtag “#PakCricket” in their tweets, this community of digital activists was able to bring Pakistan Cricket on the list of the 10 most discussed topics on Twitter. Pakistan Cricket drew the attention of millions of people across the world by reaching their Twitter home pages. It was truly a reflection of the power of online activism.

Twitter has become a forum for cyber activism of sorts. Not only does it help draw attention to a certain issue, it also helps keep people informed about happenings within their own city and on their own streets! Examples of live twitter updates at times of crisis and violence in the city abound. Twitter has also become one of the most popular mediums for distributing information about protests. Iran is a particular case in point. When US State Department asked Twitter to delay a scheduled maintenance so that the line of communication between Iran and the rest of the world would remain open and the State Department could follow Iran election news, the world saw how much power a social network like Twitter could wield.

Twitter has also become a vital source for information on trends, happenings and opinions for the mainstream news media. In fact, courtesy its speed and always-on nature, Twitter has become a tool for reporters to source breaking news. One example of Twitter breaking news is when Twitter broke the news of a small earthquake in Mexico in 2007. Besides that, Twitter has been the basis of a steady stream of breaking news on Iran in present times, as netizens try to waiver the strict media restrictions in the country.

Twitter has pretty much become a revolution in communication as it steps up to fill gaps where the traditional media is unable to function.

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