Oliver Wright writes:
Since my last post on the role Twitter is playing in relation to more traditional media, a couple of events have highlighted how Twitter, and social media in general, is having a greater influence on significant news events.
When riots recently broke out in Moldova’s capital, Chisinau, thousands of young Moldovans protested against elections whose outcome ensured the communist government would stay in power. The events were quick to grab the headlines, with Twitter once again thrust into the limelight as an example of microblogging’s ability to mobilise people.
It was quickly dubbed “Moldova’s Twitter Revolution”, at least by journalists, but after a week of protests (judges subsequently ordered a recount) a more nuanced story has emerged. Those involved in organising the protests explained they used many online tools to organise the protest; planning involved blogs and LiveJournal accounts, followed closer to the actual event by facebook groups and text messaging. Twitter was, among other things, a clever way of ensuring their message gained space in influential media outlets. By this measure the protests have been a resounding success. (For some more in-depth analysis, take a look here and here.)
Closer to home, the political scandal that has dominated media discourse has been ‘smeargate’ (or #smeargate in Twitter), the saga in which Gordon Brown’s political and press adviser, Damian McBride, resigned after leaked emails described plans to publish gossip stories about senior opposition party politicians on a ‘political gossip’ blog, Red Rag. These were, it was said, primarily to be a response to claimed slurs about members of the Labour party on the Conservative-leaning Guido Fawkes’ blog – a Westminster rumour mill.
Whatever one’s political affiliations, the incident highlights the importance placed within government on the influence of the blogosphere. As a result (unintended), the public is now more aware of political mudslinging previously shared between small groups of politically motivated bloggers. In Moldova, a couple of shrewd planners used their knowledge of how the media operates to take advantage of social networks, particularly the viral nature and gravitas of Twitter, in order to garner the maximum media exposure for their cause.
As we’ve noted earlier, taken individually, services like Twitter, and previously facebook, can seem like isolated fads, but seen within the context of an increasingly savvy and networked online community, they take on greater significance.
The picture at the top of the post was borrowed, with thanks, from the Political Graffiti blog.