In 1941, President Roosevelt made a statement in regards to everyone’s right to individual freedom. He declared that ‘freedom of speech was one of the four freedoms that people everywhere in the world ought to enjoy’ (Palevic M, Djordjevic S). With recent world conflicts, people have used social media to voice their personal opinions
In 2001, the prosecution trial of Phillippine President Joseph Estrada saw key evidence against him set aside. As a result of this, thousands converged at a major crossroads in Manilla to protest that a corrupt politician would be let off. The protest was prepared, by a forwarded text message reading “Go 2 EDSA – Wear blk” (Shirky C, 2011). Over the next couple of days, there were over 1 million people were walking down the main road. The text message was sent to over 7 million people with a swift response. It was so fast that the legislators were forced to reverse the decision and allow the evidence to be presented. As a result of this, Estrada was gone, blaming his downfall to the ‘text – messaging generation’ (Shirky C, 2011).
The strategy used in the Philippines is now used around the world. For instance, the ousting of the Spanish Prime Minister in 2004 was due to a text message. The Communist Party in Moldova lost power in 2009 after protests organised through text message broke out after a false election. Social media has become the main tool for individual freedom in all world political movements. Nonetheless, individual freedom can also come at a cost. In 2006, street protests held against the Belarus President because of vote of rigging led to the extreme control of social media. The 2009 uprising of the Green Movement in Iran saw every possible ‘use of technology to protest against miscount of votes but this was brought down by violent crackdowns’ (Shirky C, 2011)
There are many researchers that bring in the issue, “social media scepticism.” In the New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell writes on examples on what they are called ‘slacktivism’, where participants seek to have individual freedom through low cost activities’ (Shirky C, 2011). In this, he means that people are using social media as it’s a cheap tool, yet, it doesn’t take any action. With groups of people using social media to spread their thoughts, it has led to countries, especially in China and the Middle East to tighten restrictions on internet access. Scholars, Rebecca MacKinnon and Evgeny Morozov have put forward the argument that the use of social media as a tool has made countries strengthen authoritarian regimes. ‘Australia is a good example of political culture taking a right seriously, even without protection’, (Wagner R, 2013). In recent years, China has been in the spotlight due to state controlled media and tight regulations to outside internet access, leading to minimum individual freedom. Many say that individual freedom in China ‘is a privilege, not a right’ (Brown,S). Chinese authorities refuse to recognise the opinions of average citizens. They have a large amount of individuals who either are ‘killed, in jail or go missing as a result of speaking out’, (Yang