Twitter Proves Pivotal In Dissemination Of Information During Taksim Square Protests

From Occupy Wall Street to the Arab Spring, social media – and Twitter in particular – has played a focal role in many of recent years’ most tumultuous public demonstrations.

The protests taking place in Turkey add to that trend, placing an even greater emphasis on how powerful a communicative tool Twitter is.

The protests in Turkey, organized initially in response to government plans to tear down the green space in Taksim Square and replace it with a shopping center, have, as Al Jazeera reports, “morphed into a more visceral expression of the general discontent with the government’s policies over the last several years.”

The police have fired tear gas and pepper spray on the gathered crowds, even setting fire to tents set up for the protesters to sleep in.

Amidst this turmoil, the role of social media has been monumental.

On Friday, May 31, activity on Twitter was constant throughout the entire day; even after midnight local time more than 3,000 tweets about the protest were published every minute. Popular hashtags included #direngezipark? (950,000 tweets), #occupygezi (170,000 tweets) and #geziparki (50,000 tweets).

More so than in past protest situations, 90% of geolocated tweets are coming from within the country, and 50% from within Istanbul itself. Moreover, 88% of the tweets are in Turkish.

In comparison, Starbird [PDF] estimated that only 30% of those tweeting during the Egyptian revolution were actually in the country.

As local shops have removed security from their WiFi networks to allow Internet access, thousands of Turkish protesters are live-tweeting and streaming video from their smartphones in protest of the traditional media, giving themselves a mechanism to communicate and exchange information with other countrymen, and the international community.

Protesters have encouraged other Turks to turn off their TVs in defiance against the lack of coverage of the mainstream media, promoting the hashtag #BugĂĽnTelevizyonlar?Kapat (literally, “turn off the TVs today”), used in more than 50,000 tweets so far.