Photo: Latin American Flags
Since 2010, Facebook has been the worst nightmare for almost every dictator in the Arab world. The former dictator of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, the former dictator of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi, and former dictator of Tunisia, Zine El Abidene Ben Ali, can credit Facebook and Twitter for helping them lose their power. Mubarak and Gaddafi had served as rulers of their respective countries for over thirty years.
Prior to 2010 Facebook and Twitter have only been open to the general public for about three years. Yet, the democratic and free speech nature of these social networks have changed the entire political climate of the Arab world. With the exception of Israel, the citizens of the Middle-East and North Africa were not allowed access to free speech. Through Facebook and Twitter, angry citizens expressed their thoughts online which led them to gather, unite and take their outrage to the streets spurring more angry citizens of Egypt and Libya to overthrow their governments in the same way the Shah was overthrown in Iran during the 1970s.
The Arab Spring is still not over and is spreading across Arab countries in the Middle-East and oil wealthy nations bordering the Persian Gulf. However, two years before the Arab Spring, the use of Facebook helped people create an uprising in Colombia. The uprising in Colombia did not get as much attention as the uprisings in the Middle East or North Africa. Nor did it impact the political climate of Latin America in the same capacity. Yet, it did open the floodgates to political uprisings across the world.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) is a terrorist organization with strong alliances with the Colombian drug cartels. With a simple mission to overthrow the democratic government of Colombia, FARC never had the support of Colombian Oscar Morales, 35 year old computer engineer. He was not a celebrity in his own country nor did he have any political power in Colombia. Once Oscar heard about FARC refusing to release a kidnapped child raised in captivity, it motivated him to create a group called, “One Million People Against FARC.” Oscar united 1,000,000 people in Columbia, with a population of approximately 60 million people, to join his Facebook page with zero advertising dollars, and only 100 Facebook friends.
Within a few hours, Oscar’s Facebook fan page acquired 15,000 members strictly through grassroots means. Within one month, the Facebook fan page gathered 500,000 members. While a Facebook fan page with 500,000 members cannot change the world, it did gather enough people and stirred enough anger against FARC so that 200 protests were carried across the world and FARC’s membership dropped from 40,000 members to less than 7,000 members in a period of a few months. The impact of Oscar Morales’ Facebook group against FARC demonstrated how the power of Facebook can significantly augment a person’s passion to make a difference.
As a result of the Arab Spring, many dictatorships have banned Facebook including China, Iran, North Korea and Cuba. With the exception of Cuba, Latin America consists of democratic governments that do not inhibit free speech. Yet, Latin America is a region faced with civil unrest due to massive corruption, a wide wealth gap, and a strong feeling of populism. Social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, open a wide range of communication that may help the people throughout the region unite to improve their daily lives, and even help their Cuban Americans overthrow Castro and his communist regime.
Paul Rothbein is a Los Angeles based freelance social media marketer and web developer. To learn more about Paul and what he does you can visit his website at placervilleseo.com.