Crans Montana New Leader of Tomorrow Karima Rhanem from Morocco moderated on March 21 in Brussels a lunch debate on social networking and recent upheavals at New Europe Studio during Crans Montana Forum on South South Cooperation.
The lunch debate, which was designed especially for Crans Montana New Leaders of Tomorrow from different countries, focused on how social networking played a key role in the revolutions and how can young people harness the opportunities brought by social media to go beyond cyber protest?
Examples from the Arab revolution were at the heart of the discussions. Technologically savy, Arab Youth, who mainly used social media to mobilize people around particular causes and demands related to the revolution, have made substantial impact in Bourquiba streets in Tunisia, Tahrir square in Egypt, Bab Al Azizia in Lybia, Baba Amrou in Syria, Change plaza in Yemen and Bab al Had in Morocco.
Europe has also known several protests mainly in Spain of what has become commonly known as the 15-M Movement (Spanish: Movimiento 15-M), the Indignants Movement, and Take the Square #spanishrevolution. America has also witnessed the birth of the Occupy Wall Steet movement, protesting against social and economic inequality. These demonstrations went viral in almost 80 countries around the world. Turkey intensively used social media in the Ocuppy Gezi protests which lead the Turkish former prime minister to declare Twitter a threat contributing to more censorship of the internet. In Ukraine, during the height of the unrest at the end of last February, over 250,000 tweets using protest hashtags were sent in just 24 hours leading to a major change in the country’s politics.
Based on these facts, key questions were raised as to whether using social media makes youth more influential or do they need to strategize to effectively influence decisions and impact public policies? Participants in the debate believe that it is unthinkable today that major decision makers and politicians would not have some kind of presence in social media. Therefore, young activists and nonprofit organizations should use this medium to share information about politics and election campaigns, to mobilize youth to vote, discuss crisis or current policies and voice their opinions, draft online memorandums and sign petitions to influence policies.