In my last post I wrote about how social networking was making recent protests bigger and louder than they have ever been before. However, it appears that social networking can also be a hindrance to the cause.
One specific example of that occurrence in OWS recently is the failed
protest during fashion week in New York City.
The idea behind the protest was to stand against the “elitist” fashion industry, because of the extremely high prices and selective group of people who are able to be directly involved in fashion. More specifically protestors were there to reject the “body image” that the fashion industry inflicts on America’s youth, and animal rights. The plan was that 99 protestors would paint their eye – makeup red to symbolize those who have been pepper-sprayed at previous protests, and enter the Calvin Klein show.
However, the protest failed for more than one reason. Weather was supposedly the biggest factor in the extremely low turnout, but Dhani Mau theorizes that these protestors, “wouldn’t even be let in” (Mau 1). Because social networking is extremely accessible to the public, it generally serves as a helpful tool for planning events of this nature. When planning to crash a private event though, security gets a heads up and is able to up security. Even though the event didn’t go as planned, it most likely would not have accomplished what it desired even if 99 protestors did show up.
This issue has been addressed before. After the riots in the UK, Bill Wasik discussed, “Representatives of Facebook and Twitter were called in to discuss emergency plans to throttle their services. Research in Motion, the maker of BlackBerry, has promised (or so it has been reported) that it would halt BBM if riots happened again” (Wasik 12). Since the tools driving demonstrations like OWS are run by corporations, those companies would be able to monitor all the information and theoretically could shut down the sites and prevent the online conversations from going any further.
Although it is possible, we have never seen this kind of limit be put on the Internet in our country. It has happened in protests in other places, but Wasik believes that, “…for the same basic reason that the technologies have proved instrumental in crowd disorders—the ubiquity of their use, among not just young people but all classes and professions—one has to doubt whether governments and tech companies will really have the stomach to carry out these draconian countermeasures” (Wasik 12).
It does seem unlikely that we would see this much control over a demonstration that has so far been peaceful. Some protestors do have concerns though, and are taking measures to provide internet through private servers that cannot be accessed from the government or companies.