Social Media and the Uprising in Venezuela

Social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are playing a crucial role in the Venezuelan uprising.

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Once upon a time, the mass media dominated communication streams; gatekeepers decided what we should or shouldn’t know and how information should be portrayed. But since the Arab Spring, social media has disrupted traditional power structures and has been hailed as changing the world.

Even so, disruption does not always lead to legitimacy. And there are many challenges ahead. As Forbes contributor, Greg Satell, explains:

As Moisés Naím explained in his book The End of Power, technology, along with globalization and economic trends, has made “power easier to get, but harder to use or keep” and that brings us to the present dilemma.  We now know how to disrupt, but we still have no clear formula for bridging the gap from disruption to legitimacy.

We’ve already seen this problem in the countries of the Arab Spring, many of which have descended into chaos.  I fear that social media will be little help in this regard.  Malcolm Gladwell had a point when he argued that hierarchy plays a crucial role in organizing sustained action.

Social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are once again playing a crucial role in the current uprisings in Venezuela. As The Atlantic pointed out in a recent piece, the real-time news feed of Twitter in particular has portrayed the back-and-forth between president Nicolás Maduro and opposition leader Leopoldo López, and has been a life-line for both Venezuelans and expatriates.

In an effort to stop the live-blogging via social media, the Venezuelan government blocked images on Twitter.

The Storify below provides a snapshot of how the unrest in Venezuela is being depicted on social media, both to the country’s advantage, in terms of exposing corruption and sharing crucial information with the rest of the world, and its detriment — as the spread of misinformation ignites further chaos.