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Facebooking for Burma

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Talk about a case story for "Facebook for Activists 101". In response to the Buddhist monk-led protest in Burma, a Facebook group, "Support the Monks' protest in Burma" is using the Internet to organize and promote gatherings and other initiatives. One of these is a Facebook event called Red Shirt for Burma, encouraging people to wear a red t-shirt on the 28th of September as a show of support.

At present, more than 4,000 people have pledged their support for Red Shirt for Burma with an impressive near-35,000 people joining the Facebook group that is helping to promote the event.

The Support the Monks group is a good source for news updates, photos, links to societies such as Voices for Burma and Amnesty International and calls for participation for other support initiatives.

Already other events are being organized in countries like Australia, Hong Kong, Norway and New Zealand. In the UK, demonstrations are being held everyday outside the Burmese Embassy in London from 12-1pm.

This initiative highlights Facebook's strengths as a medium to connect people with similar interests, galvanizing a network of strangers to unite for a single cause. The democratic structure of a Facebook group in itself allows for the sharing of news and media in a way similar to a group blog, with minimum hassle.

Using Facebook to promote a cause is nothing new in the Internet world. Another Facebook group, Students for Barack Obama, has gained considerable media notoriety, receiving coverage from CBS News on their efforts to push their presidential candidate.

Presidential hopefuls and Burmese monks aside, Facebook is becoming a force enough to entice Microsoft into talks for a slice of Facebook's pie. Right now, though, the Burmese can take comfort that though they may be shut out from the world, the world is watching…with the help of the Internet.

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About Erna Mahyuni

  • Arran

    71000 people

  • http://www.ernamahyuni.com Erna

    I wrote the piece yesterday ;) The membership’s doubled since then.

  • Pam Westbrook

    Time to stand and support freedom. It’s easy to say those words but the courage of the people of Burma is overwelming and should make all of us humble. I hope that the governments of world will remember they should be our voice, and show our concern and outrage at this time.

  • http://preciousmetal.wordpress.com Nate DeMontigny

    Good job in spreading this. There are many online petitions, including this one that people should go to and sign. We may not live in the region but we can make our voices heard.

  • Silver Surfer

    Just what the Burmese need right now … a bunch of gen Y yuppies touting their cause on facebook. I’m sure Burma’s despots are going to be really worried by that.

    Sorry if that sounds a bit rough, because I suspect everyone’s hearts are in the right place, but I do mean every word of it. Most Burmese would think facebook is something you read. Very few would ever have had access to a computer.

    Nice idea, but it’ll be about as helpful as serving soy decaf lattes to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

    All I can say is, please get real. These people are really suffering, and have been for decades. The best way to help is to agitate for the US govt and other free-world countries (and I’ll include China in that just this once) to flex a bit more economic muscle.

    Facebook probably isn’t the way to do it.

    Burma doesn’t need facebook, it needs facing down. The only way Burma’s leaders are going to listen is if they’re punished.

  • Fred Assynt

    @Silver Surfer

    I agree that this sort of thing is not going to have a huge effect. However, in so far as it raises awareness among the users of Facebook who see their friends joining, it does no harm, and perhaps a little good. Furthermore, public embarrassment of regimes does work sometimes. If you can build up enough of a head of steam to shame the regime into action. Facebook alone will not do it, but our politicians will be watching and taking note, even if Burma’s are not.

  • http://www.getting-your-ex-back.com Christopher Rose

    Silver Surfer, stop being a grumpy old man! People are using Facebook as a way to keep in touch, co-ordinate and even plan protest marches and other events.

    I don’t really understand why the Bush administration has suddenly become so agitated about Burma, nor why, given the achingly sincere concern about rooting out global evil it shows, Burma and Zimbabwe weren’t on the original axis of evil list and scheduled for invasion…

  • http://www.ernamahyuni.com Erna

    The point I was trying to make wasn’t that this Facebook group was going to change the world nor suddenly cause change in Burma. I was attempting (perhaps not quite succeeding) in making a case for the Internet as a means of promoting awareness in ways traditional media can’t.

    Think back to the 1998 protests. How many people remember what happened then? Most found out after the fact, only after 3000 people had died and many dissidents jailed. This Facebook group is only a drop in the bucket, but it’s a precious drop that demonstrates the potential for the Internet for things that matter.

    If we rubbish every little attempt at people to highlight or do something about what is wrong in the world, then in the end people will stop doing anything at all. And that, my friends, would be a tragedy in itself. Yes, this is my shameless love letter to Facebook as well as the people in Burma.

  • l baxter

    are you listening the politicans of united states, canada, france, england, all of europe, this is 2007 this should not be happening in any part of the world,getting china involved? thats like getting the devil.