Social media is good at rallying initial support but poor at sustaining and energizing it. While some of this can be blamed on Internet users’ short-attention spans in the age of digital distraction, most of the capitulation occurs because protective governments turn the social media platforms completely off as Turkey did yesterday in shutting down Twitter.
Social media is the epitome of democracy, a public microphone that enables anyone to say what they want, when they want. Naturally, social media gets noisy, as people abuse it to share useless status updates or scurrilous rumors just to see who’s listening. False information can spread quickly but the truth always seems to ends up on top.
The best that governments can do to protect against social media is let it be rather than trying to control it and generating further opposition. There will always be ways around the great firewalls.
People ultimately decide if a social media rally is worth pursuing. As professor Zeynep Tufekci points out, protests require great leadership and management since the most forceful efforts really have to be mobilized offline.
Twitter is a barometer for testing true democracies. It turns out that some quasi-democracies like Turkey and Russia still prefer censorship.