90 Foreign Aff. 28 (2011)
The Political Power of Social Media - Technology, the Public Sphere Sphere, and Political Change

handle is hein.journals/fora90 and id is 34 raw text is: The Political Power
of Social Media
Technology, the Public Sphere, and Political Change
Clay Shirky
ON JANUARY 17, 2001, during the impeachment trial of Philippine
President Joseph Estrada, loyalists in the Philippine Congress voted
to set aside key evidence against him. Less than two hours after the
decision was announced, thousands of Filipinos, angry that their
corrupt president might be let off the hook, converged on Epifanio
de los Santos Avenue, a major crossroads in Manila. The protest was
arranged, in part, by forwarded text messages reading, GO 2 EDSA.
Wear blk. The crowd quickly swelled, and in the next few days, over
a million people arrived, choking traffic in downtown Manila.
The public's ability to coordinate such a massive and rapid response-
close to seven million text messages were sent that week-so alarmed
the country's legislators that they reversed course and allowed the
evidence to be presented. Estrada's fate was sealed; by January 20,
he was gone. The event marked the first time that social media had
helped force out a national leader. Estrada himself blamed the text-
messaging generation for his downfall.
Since the rise of the Internet in the early 199os, the world's net-
worked population has grown from the low millions to the low billions.
Over the same period, social media have become a fact of life for civil
society worldwide, involving many actors-regular citizens, activists,
nongovernmental organizations, telecommunications firms, software
providers, governments. This raises an obvious question for the
CLAY S HI R KY is Professor of New Media at New York University and
the author of Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a ConnectedAge.


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