The phenomena of Protest enabled by web 2.0 (which I have Posted under the tag Protest 2.0) leads to the possibility of Revolution 2.0: a political upheaval facilitated by social networking tools. And exactly that happened in Moldova, covered by Evgeny Morozov at net.effect:
Ever since yesterday’s announcement that Moldova’s communists have won enough votes to form a government in Sunday’s elections, Moldova’s progressive youth took to the streets in angry protests. As behooves any political protest by young people today, they also turned to Facebook and Twitter to raise awareness about the planned protests and flashmobs. Led by youth NGOs like HydePark and ThinkMoldova, the protests began very peacefully – as a flashmob, where young people were simply supposed to hold lit candles in the vicinity of the square.
However, this morning things got out of hand – and, with or without Twitter’s help, the crowd got much larger, reaching as many as 10,000 people, who first picketed Election Commission headquarters, the president’s residence (windows are reported to be broken – and there are also reports that this building has been stormed), and other government buildings before storming the building of the Moldovan Parliament, which happens to be just across the road.
Technology is playing an important role in facilitating these protests. In addition to huge mobilization eforts both on Twitter and Facebook, Moldova’s angry youth – especially those who are currently abroad (roughly a quarter of Moldova’s population are working abroad due to dire economic conditions back at home) – could follow the events on this livestream provided by a Romanian TV station – directly from the square.
I’ve just spoken to a Moldovan friend who is himself a big technology fan; according to him, there is little to none cellphone coverage in the square itself (turning off cellphone coverage in protest areas is a trick that was also used by the Belarusian authorities to diffuse 2006 protests in Minsk’s central square), so protesters have to leave it to post updates to Twitter via GPRS technology on their mobiles.
The related posts on Twitter are being posted at a record-breaking rate – I’ve been watching the Twitter stream for the last 20 minutes – and I see almost 200 new Twitter messages marked with “pman” (virtually all of them in Romanian, with only one or two in English). In the last few hours there have also emerged several “smart” aggregators of posts on the subject, like this one – they have to contextualize what exactly is happening — and this one for YouTube videos. Many blog posts are also being updated in real-time – minute by minute – check this one. There are also a plenty of videos on YouTube and photos, including those uploaded to Facebook.
The interesting process that hasn’t been seen yet is the evolution of the network topology to counter tactics like turning off internet or cell phone service. That won’t work–it’s too easy to set up a mesh network when the big ones go down. Taking down that big network also has a very major downside–it stops important flow of information to those who are trying to stop the Protest 2.0. Remember John Boyd:
Grand strategy, according to Boyd, is a quest to isolate your enemy’s (a nation-state or a global terrorist network) thinking processes from connections to the external/reference environment. This process of isolation is essentially the imposition of insanity on a group. To wit: any organism that operates without reference to external stimuli (the real world), falls into a destructive cycle of false internal dialogues. These corrupt internal dialogues eventually cause dissolution and defeat.
The dynamic of Boyd’s grand strategy is to isolate your enemy across three essential vectors (physical, mental, and moral), while at the same time improving your connectivity across those same vectors.
Next up: How will web 2.0 technologies enable protest in Thailand? Russia? USA?