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Description: Two CNN assignment editors discuss how important the activist network is for us to cover the story in Syria.

Source: cnn .com

Date: March 15, 2012

Questions for discussion:

  1. Has social media been a positive force in what is going on in Syria?  Why? Or Why Not?
  2. Is there anyway in which the government can silence social media if they don’t like the message?

30 Responses to “Social media bears witness in Syria”

  1. Tim Anderson

    This article was very interesting because it shows the power that social media can have for positive change and the lengths to which some people will go to keep change from happening. Has it been a positive force in what is going on in Syria? That is a tough question because it is hard for a person living in Canada with all the comforts and security and relative peace we enjoy to make judgments about how people should be living in another part of the world. We definitely should be demanding non-violence in Syria, but we need to understand that it is the peoples decision if they use a form of social media and that brings a government crack down the likes of which we have seen over the past couple of months. The government can silence social media if they don’t like the message, but it is always dangerous for a government to do that because it will most likely be seen as dictatorial and will often use violence as a means of accomplishing the task. This is never good because one thing people want is the freedom to speak their minds and be part of the decisions that determine their lives.

  2. P

    I think this video is very interesting and makes me really think about how lucky we are in Canada and how sheltered we may be. Social Media has evolved and is rapidly reaching all corners of the world, within different countries, ethnicities and religions. Social media makes it possible for people to truly express their opinions / feelings and can be very powerful in a positive or negative way. I think regarding what is going on in Syria, the use of social media has opened eyes to the horrible times the people are suffering and bringing the real truth forward. If journalists are restricted from entering the country, or restricted from areas where violence is occurring then I think social media is being used in a very positive way to raise awareness and may even speed up the movement to save the poor people living in Syria. As stated in the video, amateur videos really convey an emotion and sense of reality, and in situations like this, that may be the best concept to really make a point. The videos are probably shocking but really portray what is going on and how unfairly people are being treated. It is hard to determine how people’s standard of living should be in other countries, but I do not think anyone, in any country, deserves being treated like that.

  3. Rachael Brown

    Social media has been an extremely positive force for uncovering what is factually going on in Syria. This is because the government will not allow journalists into areas to cover the brutality of what is happening. In fact, when journalists are permitted to obtain video evidence they are restricted access to areas with violence. Therefore, in many cases, social media has been the only voice that has revealed the severity of what is happening in Syria. These amateur videos taken in Syria prove the validity of massacres, and give coverage to events that would have never been displayed in the past due to the strict regulation of journalists. The amateur videos also expose an unedited sense of emotion and sincerity that the videographer is experiencing.

    I do believe there are ways that the government can silence social media. An example of this is currently prevalent in North Korea. In this totalitarian Stalinist dictatorship, it is difficult to uncover any sort of news because visitors are not permitted in. However, because Syria is already using social media to convey what is happening, it would be more difficult for the government to silence a message that they don’t approve of. The second a video is uploaded the news is out. It also may depend on how quickly the government can have videos and content removed from the Internet.

  4. Ford

    This video was very touching and makes you think of how safe and sheltered we are in Canada. I think that social media is good and bad in many ways and depending on how you look at what is going on in Syria social media could be beneficial or make things worse. In my opinion I think that social media has been a positive aspect of what is going on over there. Like mentioned in the video it is hard for reporters to go anywhere to get the real stories because of the government not letting them into affected areas. So really this is the only way that the people of Syria are going to be able to show the world what is happening over there and how they are suffering. I think there are ways that the government can silence social media but I don’t think that they have the power to silence it. With how much information is out there now about what is going on in Syria there is no point in trying to stop it.

  5. Kelsey Roberts

    This video is very compelling in portraying a sense of reality of the situations occurring in Syria. It is horrifying to see the torture and misfortune this individuals are enduring everyday, and this video is one of many that makes the rest of the world aware of the degree to which the situation has gotten out of hand. The role that social media plays in this context I believe could be argued as a positive force. With the control that the Syrian government holds over journalists, outsiders would might never know what was occurring if it weren’t for social media such as this video. While the government can silence the journalists, it cannot silence the rest of the world from taking a stand against these acts of inhumanity. These videos of social media are really the only way to communicate the feelings of those enduring the pain in Syria. I believe that these videos are not only rising awareness, but also a sense of activism against the government, which one can hope will eventually lead to a positive change for the citizens of Syria.

  6. Michael Holland

    I believe that social media has been an extremely positive, if not vital, force for broadcasting what is happening in places like Syria. In countries where freedom of speech is repressed or illegal, social media allows those who are repressed or gagged to get their message out and to ask for help. Social media like Facebook or twitter allows the people of Syria to communicate and organize in a manner that is not easy to control or stop by their governments. For these people to push forward and enact change they need to communicate with all their friends, neighbours, and colleagues. Since governments like the Syrians are extremely heavy handed and oppressive, communication by regular means is difficult or even dangerous at best. Now that social media has such a wide reach these people seeking freedom and help now have the chance to do so safely.

    That being said, it is possible for Governments to silence certain forms of social media if they don’t like the message. A practice that is becoming more common is something called “traffic shaping” in which internet content is blocked or shaped at the will of that Countries Government. Examples of this are places like China or North Korea, with some soon to be examples of Australia or the U.K. There are ways around these types of blocks and filtering, however, they are sometimes difficult to do, and in most cases either “illegal” or very dangerous. I believe that due to the amount of censorship that is occuring you will see an evolution in the way social media operates, and in the way that the internet is controlled and content accessed.

  7. Laura

    Social media is a raw way to spread awareness to the world about issues. Anyone with an internet connection and a camera can go viral, spreading their topic to millions of people. It is mostly a positive phenomena because it raises awareness about issues that would otherwise be overlooked. Youth, and adults alike are more likely to check their facebook page or youtube and see a viral video then watch the news. And even if the news is your primary form of information, how likely is it that there is no bias involved? Social media takes away corporate bias in many cases, because most times it involves a regular person with a camera capturing what is around them. Unfortunately, governments are trying to suppress the internet all over the world. Things like the SOPA movement in the US would give the government power to shut down any website that they are pressured to by corporations. For example, in the last Russian election, many twitter accounts were shut down as a result of negative messages being spread about Putin using election rigging to win. The people have to fight these attempts at censorship by voting them down and using the same tools that the government is trying to take away in order to raise awareness about the issues.

  8. Cole

    I think this video is interesting and it really made me reflect on how lucky we are to live in a Country like Canada where we don’t have to live like this day to day. I think social media has been a positive force in Syria in that it opens everyones eyes and shows what is really going on there when journalists are not permitted there. It alos allows the Syrian people to express their voice in a country where free speech is suppressed.

    I don’t think there is anything the government can do to prevent social media because their are always ways around techniques for blocking it. However it can be dangerous and illegal but if they want their voice heard they will find a way in my opinion.

  9. Patrick

    I think that the social media has be a positive force in Syria. It has allowed them to voice out what is happening there. It allows places that are unsafe for journalists to go to be captured. Because these videos are taken by a person that is mostly likely going to be affected by the situation, it makes the videos more real because they are taking the videos with emotions. I think that this helps the people of Syria portray their message, and helps gather support to stop what’s going on.
    I think that there is ways that governments could possible quiet the social media, but I think that I would be impossible to completely silence it. The reason that I believe that a government could quite the social media is because they can take down networks throughout there countries so that the people will not be able to access the internet and post these messages. I think that this would quiet but not silence the social media because in this day and age it is very easy for people to have some sort of access to the Internet. If the government takes down the networks in a country, people can still access the Internet via satellite.

  10. JB

    I think social media has had a positive impact for Syria because it shows some of what these people are going through and helps show the world that not everyone has it easy and that people are being brutally murdered over what is happening in Syria. These amateur video clips reveal the truth of what is happening in Syria but they also show only what the one taping the events wants you to see. The situation could look a lot worse than it really is simply by only showing the worst events occurring in Syria at the time. I am not saying that what is happening isn’t bad, I’m just saying that it could look to us outsiders a lot worse than what is actually happening. The government cannot silence everything that happens, it is just not possible. They can try and a way that they do that is by sometimes not allowing journalists to enter Syria or if they do enter, then they are not allowed to go by the more troublesome areas where riots and murders are occurring. This form of social media may be the only way that the story can be revealed to the outside world and show what is happening so that more can be done to help stop it.

  11. Lealand McCallum

    This is both good and bad.. the fact that social media is bringing this tragic stuff to light is a good thing and hopefully it will bring about change for the better. But it is also dangerous because as she said even reporters are told what to do and where to go. And I feel that if the people telling the reporters that they aren’t allowed to share the things they see get a hold of the people uploading the videos and images extreme punishment may occur.. But if social media is able to spread the word and show these horrific acts, it is a strong possibility that someone/some country may step in and try to stop it.

    Yes there is a way to stop social media if the government doesn’t like what is being posted. Take China for example, Facebook is not even allowed in the country. If Syria doesn’t like the content being made public there is a strong chance that they would become like China and ban Facebook, twitter, myspace, or any other for of social media that may make problems like this public.

  12. Darren Fletcher

    I for one am opposed to social media and I believe that it has, is and will continue to change the way we interact with each other. In no way does sitting in your closet reading others posts and commenting on them while you sit in your underwear have the slightest social interaction. The world will continue to change and there can only be backlash expected when you back governments in to a corner. On the other hand it is great that many have an outlet to provide the rest of the world with their story. I for one am not one to see these things and Facebook has absolutely no value in my life. But to teach your own, and do as you please.

  13. JC

    It’s not easy to determine whether or not social media will have a positive effect on what is going on in Syria right now. Obviously the rest of the world is hearing and seeing more of what is actually going on in the country but what does that mean for these people who are actually a part of the conflict, or the people who are being killed every day. Only time will tell if the awareness of this problem will actually make a difference for those people who are being persecuted in Syria. The governments in places like Syria that are continually in conflict can do little in our modern age to silence the public because the internet makes it so easy to send and receive information from virtually anywhere in the world. This means that information like this will continue to be more readily available to the public, uncensored and graphic like some of the images talked about in the video. But knowing and doing are separate things. It is up to the countries that have the power to help the less fortunate to do so or the videos shown might as well not have been taken at all.

  14. B

    Social media has only been a positive force for what is going on in Syria simply because we probably would not know much about the situation if it were not for the activist network. Having that unbiased point of view of what is going on helps everyone understand more completely and care for the issue. Most media sources have a way of putting a spin on a story to get ratings. However, with most of our knowledge and information sources coming from people inside the situations, we get an idea of what is going on without the influence of a media station trying to get good ratings. I suppose if a government did not like the story that was being told through social media, they could try and silence it by blocking Internet or certain websites. This would be like telling a child they can’t do something. They are only going to rebel and make more issues. I don’t know everything about the issues going on in Syria, but I do know that social medias have made a huge difference for being able to tell the story to others. Hopefully this positive force can continue to help them in these difficult situations.

  15. MJJ

    Whether or not social media has a positive impact in Syria is hard, if not impossible, to tell. What it has definitely done is increase awareness of what is really going on. As the interviewee notes, the amateur videos are much more authentic and heart wrenching. We live in an age where we are perpetually bombarded with graphic images in movies, video games and on TV. Computer graphics are scarily life like. We have become desensitized to the ‘regular’ images provided by professionals. I don’t think that governments will be able to successfully block or limit social media because they disagree with the message. The time alone required to screen and filter all potentially unfavourable messages would be immense. If people want to get their message out they will find a way to do so, whether the government is trying to stop them or not. By getting the word out to the rest of world and increasing awareness, the rest of the world can see what is really going on as opposed to the censored version received now.

  16. Maria Rana

    I found this video very interesting. I think the use of social media to show what is going on in a country that is facing a huge crisis like Syria is an excellent way to get exposure and let the world know that help is needed. It gives a voice to the people of these countries where normally they are not allowed to express their opinions and views. Social media is even more beneficial when journalists are not allowed inside such countries. I think it is a positive force as it gives people around the world a reality check and a reason to help these individuals. It can also put pressure on the government of these countries as awareness is spread. These videos can be disturbing but they show the reality in such countries and such reality needs to be exposed. This movie certainly did make me realize how lucky I am living in Canada with high security and with my loved ones without any major worries. This video made me realizes how I do not always appreciate what I have and overlook everything that I have.

  17. Mr. White

    It is very saddening to observe the fighting in Syria, and read about all the atrocities being committed under Assad’s regime. I would like to see an intervention occur; however, I don’t think it’s a realistic option because it is not in the best interest of either China or Russia to agree to it.

    My perspective is that Social media has been a very positive thing because I believe it has caused many people to feel much more connected to the horrible things that the Syrian people are going through. Though this will probably not help to save Syrian lives anytime soon, I think it is important that people are able to put themselves in the position of others, despite the fact that they may live on the other side of the world. I think that the only way for humanity to move forward and evolve is by developing universal compassion for one another. An optimist person will tell you that this may be possible with the internet, social media, and globalization. A cynical person will tell you that the earth is going to freeze over from a nuclear winter before that happens. Now I am way off topic…

    The other significant thing to mention about social media is that it helped to facilitate the uprising in Syria because it enabled massive amounts of people to communicate and organize.

  18. Salma H.

    This article is very dear to my heart because I’m Egyptian and had to see my country go through the exact same thing. If it wasn’t for social media, nobody in the ‘outside world’ would know what exactly is going on. The government does everything in its power to not shed light on the actual issues at hand, and what is actually going on in the streets. And let me tell you – they do this by any means possible. In order for these people fighting for their freedom to stay alive, they must share their stories and increase awareness all over the world. Social media created that outlet for them, connecting them to what may be their only hope. The only way these revolutions can be successful is by pressure from the west, and this pressure will only come with this awareness. To answer the second question, the government can absolutely silence this social media either completely, or just select things. This was seen in Egypt, when the government on several occasions cut off all communications (telephones and the internet as a whole), in order to assure the silencing of the revolutionaries. But some way or another, there are ways around the banning, which increasingly helps stop these dictators. If it wasn’t for social media, Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya wouldn’t be where they are now. Hopefully Syria will join this group soon enough.

  19. Mattie E

    The crisis in Syria is a testament to just how powerful social media has become, and how fast information spreads in the 21st century. The country is experiencing much turmoil, ad thousands have been killed. Since the crisis began, civilians have been actively posting videos, photos, etc. on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook to get information to the rest of the world about the atrocities being performed in their country. Few journalists can even enter the country and report on the events, and as one person in the video explained, without social media, the rest of the world would really have no idea what was happening. I think the photos and videos posted by Syrians are helping the situation in a sense. It is one thing for a journalist and news crew to report on the events, but another matter entirely to see video of bodies, explosions, and fighting from people that are in the middle of the warfare and are experiencing it first-hand. This makes everything seem much more real, and those watching in other countries might be more compelled to do something to help.
    As for the government, I think they can try to silence social media in Syria, but I don’t think it would be successful. Social media has shown us that it is unstoppable, especially when people have something important to say. The Syrian people won’t be silenced, because I think they are passionate enough to find a way to get their message to the rest of the world.

  20. Ali Almasoud

    Yesterday, “more than 140 Innocent civilians have been burned by Assad regime” according to Syrian Tweets on Twitter. These kind of news sometimes cannot be found in the traditional media due to the fact that politics has a big impact on the traditional media as we all know that it has been for more than one year and governments in all over the world either support Assad to keep killing or still doing nothing to stop killing innocents and children. This includes human rights and United Nations. Unlike traditional media, Social media convey an honest heavy message directly from Syrians to those who really believe in peace. People using social media try to get easy, accessible, and fast news that are not filtered by those who have certain interests to hide them. We are no longer guided by traditional media and taken to where those who have power want us to be. Syrians actually have been benefiting from social media since the beginning of revolution by not only passing the news but also by getting together to stand in front of the unjust system of Assad regime and say NO to the tyrannous system.

  21. crystal s.

    Social media in Syria is definitely important because it shows the rest of the world what the people of Syria are going through. Is this positive, I think it is both. Positive for the world and those viewers that can help make a change, and for the people who are living in this awful atmosphere. It can also be negative to the people of Syria because they will be the ones who are targeted or bear the consequences of the getting caught using social medias. It can also be negative for the reporters who get caught using social medias and this can be very dangerous. The correct answer then would be what is best for the people of Syria and is that beneficial for them. Will this unrest continue? Why do they want to cover this up? Obviously there is a cover up and it does not seem like their government officials want to expose the true effects of this government and what it is doing to the people of Syria. The unrest of the people and the uprising only show that the people are being treated poorly. Using social media as a means of communicating their plight to the rest of the world is of great importance and overall is a positive thing.

  22. Veronica

    I remember when I was about seventeen or eighteen and I opened the newspaper and there was a still picture from a video of two men on there knees, hands bound, bags over their heads and each had a gun pointed at them. Further in the article it discussed how these two Calgarian men had been found roadside shot and beheaded. I felt saddened, disgusted and enraged. Part of my disgust and rage was also directed to the Herald for posting this image of the last moments those two men were alive, in such a tragic situation and exploit their fear and innocence by putting it in the newspaper – and their families, the last image they see before their son’s death was with an automatic weapon pointed at his head.
    Information can be positive or negative if its used and offered in a proper matter. How a person recieves that message, and whether it’s negative or positive changes from person to person. I agree in Canada we are sheltered and have the luxury of not being surrounded by devestation that other nations are suffering from such as Syria. I think in this situation it is positive because it is giving the people of Syria a voice and a way of reaching out. How the government will react may be affected by the world’s outcry after being informed and educated of the devestation that is occuring in Syria. It will be interesting to see now and in the future the impact of social networking tools being used as voice when it matters and when other countries such as Canada lose their shelter and become more open to seeing the devestation happening in other parts of the world… what will our reaction be? Will we, and how will we help? Will there be change?

  23. Le Liu

    I think the social media has a positive force in Syria. The Syrian uprising is an ongoing, violent internal conflict in Syria. According to various sources, including the United Nations, up to 14,005–19,770 people have been killed (Wikipedia). We could not know the really situation and how much are the people suffering in Syria just by reading the numbers. It is hard for people to get the official videos and pictures since there are many requirements and pressures from the local government. However, social media opens our eyes to all the miserable things that are happening around the world. In the article, we see the small and weak children dead through the pictures and many woman and old people are hopeless and without protection. In a way of such, people can provide necessary help for the people there and get them necessities. The government could silence the social media for a short time. Meanwhile, they could not stop public to express their opinion and ideas. It is not fair for governments to violent the right of people for speak freely.

  24. Ryan Huntley

    Social media has unquestionably brought events in Syria to light through its personal touch and rapid dissemination. I have no question that the videos being captured by amateur videographers are heart breaking and profound in nature, and reflect a very human struggle that continues to persist without the knowledge of a very large portion of the general public.
    From a social marketing perspective, it is difficult to assess whether or not social media has been a force for good without being able to quantify some kind of net affect (Examples; reduction in armed conflicts, local governments responding to its citizen’s requests, issuance of foreign military support in the interest of resolving armed conflicts, etc). Although horrific videos of the atrocities being committed may be moving, without a call for action from viewers said amateur video becomes no different than the news bulletins an average person gets from the BBC or National Post.
    As for governments silencing social media, it doesn’t sound like it would be impossible in light of the recent SOPA and Protect IP legislation that (fortunately) hasn’t yet been passed. DNS (Domain Name System) blocking, from my limited understanding of the concept, is a powerful tool that many countries use to sensor the internet usage of their citizens.

  25. Debbie Kennedy

    Given the fact that all reporters are not allowed into Syria, I believe that soical media has been a very positive force. Why, because the government and their army are less likely to kill for fear of being put on video or their pictures taken while doing their horrible acts. According to my readings less killings have taken place because of social media. What I don’t get with all this publicity is why the UN hasn’t done anything to help these poor people…..maybe they have….I don’t watch this type of news because it really makes me feel bad and the visions haunt me all the time.

    The only way the govenment of Syria is going to silence social media is if they take every technological device away that is owned by all those living in Syria. Technology is here to stay and if the government of Syria don’t like it then they better start their killings indoors away from any form of social media devices.

    Hooray for social media!

  26. Misbah Dar

    Social media has been a positive source in what is going on in Syria because if it hadn’t been for the social media, no one outside Syria would have known what is going on in Syria and what difficulties and hardship they are going through. The government does what it in its power to shut down the image or message it doesn’t want to portray. I remember in one country the government banned Facebook for a day and no one in that country could access it. The government thinks that they can control people and their thoughts and they will go to any extent to show that they are the authority. Social media is more powerful than the government that it has no barriers or borders among it. The social media can reach far more than the government can ever imagine. Social media gives people the voice they need without being judged in the first place. It spreads their word without the worry of not being heard. Only developing countries don’t have access to the social media but the whole world. Being able to watch the videos and having access to what is going on in Syria opens your eyes up when sitting in a country like Canada.

  27. Xuan Wang

    Social media has been a positive force in what is going on in Syria. Even though it is not easy to get media from Syria, there are many limits come from the government, but thank to the brave and responsible journalists that we can see some actual pictures through the social media. We can know basically what happened in Syria and what we can do to help the people in Syria. The journalist in the video said that “we even do not know what the name of the people is”. Yes, that is true. If we know what the names they are and what background and more information, we can know better what happened there. But for now, all the information form the video are already good enough to understand what happen there. Thanks to the journalists.
    Unfortunately, there are many ways that the government can silence social media if they do not like the message. The government always have a lot of money to do what they want to do. They can hire people to prevent the journalists to get the message they do not like. They also can put some limit with a nice lie. For example, they may limit some journalists to go somewhere, but they will say it is all for your safety. They also can prevent the video go through the social media even though the journalist gets the important video. Government always have power that we can not image.

  28. Marli Hadden

    Social media is playing a very significant role in getting the word out to the world about the horrors that are going on in Syria. With the government controlling access of journalists coming into Syria, social media is one of the only methods that are helping to spread the word. Also, many people today only rely on social media sites for news rather that traditional methods like TV and the newspaper. This is helping a younger demographic who rely on social media for news to be informed about Syria and also ways in which they can help. Although there are ways that the Syrian government could control what is being released onto the internet and social media sites, I think that people on the inside will continue to find a way to get the word out.

  29. Jenn Burton

    Social media has brought the world closer together; there is no distance between North America and Europe, Middle East, and Asia. For decades many have talked about how manipulative the news networks are and what and how they show a story. For a regular citizen to film a massacre and post to YouTube the world population will see and or hear about it but the news may only cover a small portion of the story.
    Syria has become a main headline because of amateur video and the subtitles are more accurate than what may be seen on a big news station. Subtitles can bring the emotional element to English speaking individuals when the crisis is in a foreign language.
    I also feel that if certain crisis was not seen by the world, and handled internally then many of the wars, peacekeeping missions would not happen as a preemptive measure. These areas of the world where the outside is not seeing, would have the ability to solve before outsiders feel it is their place to intervene. How would the Vietnam war have turned out had there been Facebook, twitter, and YouTube? Would the outcome been better, worse or would it have been over faster, taken longer? There are always two sides to a coin and with the world knowing more there is no real way to tell if it is better.

  30. Rod white quills

    this article of how people in syria are being affected to a suppressing government is very interesting it bring to light how social media is helping the outside world see the problems facing this country because as the two ladies were saying in the interveiw it is very hard to get access to what is really going on behind the boarders of brings to light the positve aspects of social media because we are getting to know the stories of people behind the boarders of this country and getting to know how they are being treated by thier government there is really no way of stopping social media in this day and age because of how easy it is to access even in countries where it is looked down upon these people in syria are trying too get the world to notice there troubles and asking for help. soon it will come to point where government of countries like syria will have to think twice about how they treat there people because of social media the world is watching through social media so they will have to take into this into consideration because like i said there is no way of stopping social madia even in a coountry like syria

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