Internet shapes global Tibet protests

April 17th, 2008 - 8:49 pm ICT by admin  


New Delhi, April 17 (IANS) The emergence of social networking sites has come as a boon for cyber-dissidents who use these internet tools not just to create a buzz on the web but also as a platform to organise protests and flash strikes. On Facebook, there are nearly 15 groups that come up on a word search for ‘tibet’. But, the largest by far is that of “Free Tibet”, which had a membership count of 88,460. When accessed on Thursday afternoon, it had over 8,700 posts, 1,727 photos, 360 discussions topics and 51 videos.

The discussants naturally were critical of Chinese government policies, but there were also interventions from other Facebook users who claimed they were being fed by “western media lies”.

The photo-sharing site, Flickr, had several streams of photograph on the protests inside Tibet and outside.

But, the majority of clicks were on the video-sharing site, YouTube, where pro-China activists have compiled videos of reportedly “false” news reported on western media channels on the Tibet situation. One of those uploaded videos was reportedly from an Indian website, which had wrongly translated a clip from Chinese television.

“YouTube” has turned into a battlefield for all-out video war, as both sides uploaded their side of the story. When pro-Tibet sympathisers uploaded a clip “Tibetan monks embarrass China - 27 Mar 08″, the pro-China lobby followed with a clip termed “Tibet - Cannibal monks reveal their true faces”. Ironically, agencies from Beijing said that YouTube could not be accessed from the Chinese mainland.

The dominance of the Internet in the recent Tibet protests was noted by several blogs which found that the planning was done entirely on New Media tools in response to official surveillance.

“First, there were the emails from friends planning to participate. This information was soon followed by Facebook feeds showing which friends, and which elected officials, had confirmed their presence in the street masses. While this took place, YouTube videos began to be uploaded from Tuesday night’s rally. By early morning, my phone started vibrating with Twitter updates, starting slowly and then reaching overwhelming numbers, as protesters took to the streets to outsmart city officials and police,” said a post on the website “Fog city journal” that tracked the San Francisco protests April 10.

“Twitter” is a tool which allows its users to send updates to their profiles through SMS, Internet messaging or through other social networking sites. These updates can be viewed by those ‘twitterers’ who have subscribed to that specific feed.

A website, “blog.reportwitters.com”, which advocates journalism-twitter style has a post titled “Journalist’s guide to finding Tibet twitters” that lists various links, including the Chinese version of twitter called “fanfou”, where the Tibet situation is updated frequently from within China.

The ground-zero for Tibet twitter feeds was “twitter.com/teamtibet” which shows the minute-by-minute tracking of the torch in the city of brotherly love. “Torch bearer at Van Ness & Chestnut just pulled out Tibetan Flag!! Had torch taken away. YAA!,” said a post, followed six minutes later by “Torch turned onto Marina, heading West towards Crissy Field”.

During the Delhi torch relay, there were requests for information from around the world on the progress of the Olympic torch. Since the public was assiduously kept out of the route, the trackers had to make do with reports from media wire agencies or television channels.

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