Salazar governed Portugal with three F’s: Fado, Fatima and Football. He manipulated public opinion in sentimental, religious and activism levels using these highly revered and powerful aspects of Portuguese way of life. Common arguments on the subject lead to underrating of either three F’s or Portuguese public at large. It could be said that overly sentimental and pessimistic music collaborating with religious dogmas could occupy masses and redirect their social unrest into self-pity. And any excess ambition could be discharged using football’s joint and repetitive liturgy. This theory has been worked on many dictatorships since then.
Also in developing nations, dictatorship or not, suppressive tactics are often used on public opinion. Be it an indoctrinating education system ,or overvaluing nationalistic prerogatives over other less fortunates, oppression is a common denominator in less-developed geography.
With the coming of Information Age, old tactics as school books or traditional media started to lose their effectiveness. People started to rely ore and more on first hand and uncontrollable news as their major source of information. And finally with the Twitter revolution causing actual revolutions around the world, suppressive administrations were left in the cold for a brief time.
After 2099 Facebook and Twitter usage skyrocketed worldwide. As so much as by end 2010, among all countries Turkey became fourth in Facebook access. One third of all population in the country has Facebook accounts. (1) While accounting for only 0,8% of all Twitter usage by end 2009, now Turkey is expected to account for a lot more traffic on Twitter. There are no reliable usage statistics particular to a specific country in 2010, but if my own followers could be considered as a sample, my Turkish followers are increasing twice as much since summer 2010. Most of which seem to spend a lot of time connected on a continuous basis everyday. Since the beginning of 2010, content used by Turkish users seem to change significantly. Personal issues, classical status updates morphed into more social issues and political activist content increased dramatically. Numbers of bloggers writing social issues and independent news sites are growing as well.
Habits of Internet users are changing. But these people were not staring at a wall before. They were doing something else during the hours of the day they now devote to social media. Considering the time slots social media is frequented by users, usage replaces all kinds of old activities ranging from work, a walk by the beach, socializing to family quality time or recreation. Social media as a function of activism is influencing developing countries increasingly. Recent developments in the Middle East are not only ricocheting social revolutions in the region but also use of social media and Internet as a mode of information exchange.
But it is not only “people” who benefits from the social media. Authoritative regimes whose tactics grew obsolete are turning their attention to different means of communication with the masses whom are conditioned with their old methods. Political parties, NGO’s, even governments through their official or impersonated accounts are stimulating well established reflexes to prevent liberating character of uncontrolled stream of information. On the other hand, they are implementing censorship policies to restrict access to static information such as blogs or broadcast sites. Social media such as Facebook or YouTube are commonly banned in many undemocratic countries although people find illegitimate ways to connect to these very easily. Recently some Arab countries even cut all Internet or cellular phone access to outside world.
When free access is available social media has a balancing quality in the medium term. People are bombarded by genuine information and propaganda at the same time and in time they learn to filter garbage out in a stream of knowledge. However when the stream is controlled at the source, there is the danger of garbage flowing in all the veins of certain social media.
Technology while liberating the thought by providing access to previously unavailable content in many third world countries, it might turn to a tool of oppression if the creators don’t take that factor into account during planning and execution.
In my opinion, the success of Facebook and Twitter lies herein. You cannot differentiate or control content within Facebook, you have to allow it as a whole or ban it altogether. Twitter has a bigger advantage. Many classical content filtering tools don’t work with Twitter because it’s a distributed application. Many different clients utilize the information fed through Twitter and in certain cases even blocking IP addresses might not work as an efficient censorship.
In time only applications with intrinsic capabilities to promote free speech will prevail. Using social media as a tool of oppression will not succeed, applications that enable this will lose popularity just because of that undependability and be buried in the graveyard of Internet history.
(1) Facebook statistics by country. Socialbakers