One of the more interesting forms of political protests took place in Turkey last week, with opponents of Turkish President Abdullah Gul encouraging others to unfollow Gul after Gul made a controversial decision to increase government control over the internet.
First, the background. Last week, Gul took to Twitter to announce that he would approve of new laws that would tighten governmental controls over the internet. The laws were allegedly designed, in part, to help Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who is currently enmeshed in a corruption scandal. Gul did say that he would fight to amend the internet law, but this has done little to assuage its detractors, who say that the bill amounts to increase controls over free speech.
As a result, protesters took to Turkey to encourage others to unfollow Gul. The result? Nearly 80,000 less Twitter followers. This is out of +4 million, so it’s not the largest dent in the world, but it is certainly a sizable number.
Is this an effective form of protest? In and of itself, no. But it is interesting that the uniqueness of the protest has generated more media attention than it would have otherwise. Social Media is such a hot, new topic that it is generating significant publicity. As a result, this story is gaining more traction, and that can only be good for Gul’s opponents. If viewed in the context of an overall opposition effort, this move could prove to be effective.
What is most interesting to me is that there is an organized effort to fold in real-world protests with Twitter protests. We have seen with the Arab Spring that Social Media can play a huge role in toppling dictators and overthrowing governments, but the thing here is that people are actually protesting via Twitter usage – not just communicating their message. This is the first time I have seen unfollowing as a form of protest – and I’d be very curious to see if this continues to occur.