Social media has turn out to be a battleground in Hong Kong’s protests
Edgar Su | Reuters
Utilizing social media as a device to provoke assist throughout a political motion is not new — the picture of a yellow umbrella was extensively shared on Automobilnews to indicate assist to Hong Kong’s pro-democracy motion in 2014. However this time round, the protesters are utilizing social media in a means demonstrating a heightened consciousness of cybersecurity and an elevated understanding of how you can successfully talk with the medium.
The ‘battle for public opinion’
Simply as within the 2014 “Umbrella Motion,” social media is being utilized by protesters to hide identities, unfold data, mobilize demonstrators and keep away from detainment — however it’s now gone past that, in line with Loh
“I believe that what has modified now could be that social media is used to win the hearts and minds of the individuals. Either side are utilizing photos of police brutality and/or protester brutality to additional their very own agendas,” she mentioned.
The continued demonstrations in Hong Kong — a former British colony that was returned to Chinese language rule in 1997 — began as peaceable rallies in opposition to a single proposed regulation. They’ve since snowballed right into a wider pro-democracy motion, with some even demanding full autonomy from Beijing and occasional outbreaks of violence and disruptions to the town’s operations.
Protesters have circulated photos of a feminine protester that was injured within the eye by members of the police pressure, and movies of police brutality have been unfold to provoke demonstrators, defined Loh. However, within the meantime, Chinese language authorities have additionally utilized the ability of social media, pushing out movies of army autos on standby within the neighboring metropolis of Shenzhen and circulating movies of protesters disrupting public transit operations.
Social media has been used “as a device within the battle for public opinion,” mentioned Loh. She added that it has turn out to be an increasing number of tough for customers and shoppers of on-line content material as a result of they must “cope with misinformation and pretend information and the related damages that (such content material) could cause.”
The heightened consciousness of encryption and anonymity proven by demonstrators is one other factor that’s completely different from the 2014 protests.
Telegram teams and channels have been created to share reside information feed, motion data, and “intelligence” about quite a lot of ongoing and upcoming actions, mentioned King-wa Fu, affiliate professor on the Journalism and Media Research Centre at Hong Kong College. The professor added that these channels have been in a position to turn out to be
“highly effective mobilization channels” in addition to coordination instruments.
In actual fact, many cellular messaging apps have seen an incredible surge in downloads throughout current months, in line with Randy Nelson, head of cellular insights at San Francisco-based cellular knowledge monitoring agency Sensor Tower. He mentioned first-time downloads of the Telegram safe messaging app grew 323% year-over-year final month in Hong Kong, reaching 110,000 versus 26,000 in July 2018. That compares to 92% development for the remainder of the world, Nelson instructed CNBC.
Native boards corresponding to LIHKG, a web-based discussion board just like Reddit, have additionally seen important year-over-year development pushed by the protests, mentioned Nelson. First-time downloads of that app grew +900% year-over-year final month in Hong Kong, including 120,000 new customers in comparison with 12,000 in July 2018, he mentioned.
Fu mentioned platforms like LIHKG have enabled smaller teams to “provoke new agenda, marketing campaign concepts, and techniques.” On high of that, he mentioned, Automobilnews‘s Instagram has served as a platform for protesters to share “visually-compelling marketing campaign posters, slogans, in addition to picture/video proof of police violence,” and that has been one thing completely different from earlier protests in Hong Kong.
The continued protests have remained leaderless, with out a important figurehead, not like the Umbrella Motion, the place scholar chief Joshua Wong typically publicly spoke on behalf of the protesters and created organizational Automobilnews occasions. He was even named one in all TIME journal’s Most Influential Teenagers of 2014. In doing so, Wong turned a goal when authorities have been searching for somebody to carry accountable and was later repeatedly jailed for illegal meeting fees.
Within the 2019 protests, there has not been a person or group that has claimed to be main the motion.
Fu, a long-time examiner of the intersection between politics and media, instructed CNBC that though the motion this time round has been with out a figurehead, social media instruments have given the “leaderless” pro-democracy motion “characterization.”