After video of alleged voter fraud was uploaded online, mass-scale protests against Russian Prime Minister Valdimir Putin in the streets of Moscow have been organized through Twitter, Facebook and the Russian network Vkontakte.
These videos have encouraged other Russians to organize and join demonstrations against Putin, resulting in numbers which haven’t been seen in the country since the fall of the Soviet Union. After event invitations were sent on Facebook and Vkontakte, approximately 20,000 protesters gathered in Moscow Saturday. Earlier rallies were broken up after Putin claimed they were illegal and protesters were acting “disorderly.” Additionally demonstrations are being planned for St. Petersburg.
Combined with a stagnating quality of life due to dropping oil prices, these rigged elections and the uploaded evidence of them have provided an issue around which Putin’s marginalized opposition can rally. And they’re spreading the message across social media, echoing what we’ve seen happen during the Arab Spring and at Occupy Wall Street.
Additionally, as happened during the Arab Spring and the Iranian protests in summer of 2009, social media is also giving the outside world a window to watch the unrest. Most Russian media is managed by the government. The unfiltered, instantaneous vantage point which social media gives the rest of the world means that millions of eyes are on Russia, monitoring its response to the demonstrations.
Should they take an ugly turn, the world will know instantly. But is that enough? Let me know in the comments below.