Communications / Politics

The Accountability of Social Media

Social media instigated major political change in 2011.  Most notably the Arab Spring saw governments corrode under the pressure of its citizens who were fed up with years of corruption, poverty and joblessness.  Social media sites, Facebook and Twitter, enabled people to quickly learn about the demonstrations, organize and react through massive protests.  The accessibility of communication maintained an organized and powerful front creating long-term change: a voice, by the people, for the people.

We can observe similar tactics transcending throughout the United States.

Two weeks ago, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) caused alarm for search engine websites like Wikipedia and Google who feared the laws would hinder the flow of information and limit freedom of speech.  On January 18th, Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, Twitter, eBay, Reddit, Mozilla and Wikipedia all participated in varied forms of protest, Wikipedia’s being the most noticeable.  The response was immediate and powerful.  Americans expressed their disapproval for the legislation by posting on Facebook, Tweeting, blogging and signing online petitions. The following day both bills were tabled. Congress got the message.

The power of this relies in the obligation of elected officials to abide by their constituents. The discontent with the legislation was impossible to ignore.  As a result, transparency and power was balanced. The public sector has regained its accountability.

This past week, the Komen Foundation faced a similar PR onslaught.  People immediately reacted through social media outlets after the cancer organization announced they were abstaining from their usual funding to Planned Parenthood.  This effort to decrease their budget quickly turned political, as it was a threat to women’s health and education.  Days later, Komen retracted their original decision to preserve their reputation.  A keen eye can see that the private sector is also being held accountable.  The foundation has no obligations to fund Planned Parenthood, but to maintain their reputation as the leading women’s health foundation, they had to.

We are quickly beginning to see that the power is back in the hands of the people.  The public and private sectors are increasingly being held accountable via social media.  SOPA, PIPA and Komen are just the beginning for a more accountable America.

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