The Impact of a Hashtag – How do protest movements bring about change

05.02.2020

Are protest movements emerging in Social Media? Are they a foundation for anger and fear? Jacquelien van Stekelenburg, Director of Research of the Department of Sociology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, examined the questions.

How do protest movements actually work? Social media or classical protest organization? For Jacquelien van Stekelenburg, this is not a question of either-or. Instead, protests are about combining the strengths of decentralized Social Media with those of local protest organizations, the professor said in an interview with "France 24 English". Social Media is merely a channel, just as newspapers or television used to be.

“We studied how people were mobilised for the Tahrir square in January 2011,” says van Stekelenburg about her research. “And what we found out was that it was not only a “Facebook revolution” as it was called in those days. In fact, community organisations played a very important role in bringing people to the streets.”

In terms of sustaining social movements, Social Media is  very good as a mobilising activation and at raising awareness. “And that is what we need: for social change we need social awareness,” says van Stekelenburg. 

The crucial element  is to have a critical mass behind you. However, protest movements do not experience a constant influx. In order not to let the protest subside, but to encourage more people and ensure logistics, local organisations are extremely important.

More in this video – and on the 16th European Trend Day