The Role of Twitter During the Occupy Protests

cropped-fist.pngOccupy Wall Street and the protests that appeared in cities all over the world owe some credit to Twitter for their great success. The Occupy movement relied on the involvement of a huge number of people to create an effective conversation surrounding inequality in both the American and global financial systems. Due to the decentralized organizational structure of the Occupy movement, where there was nobody considered a leader and no official organization, the Occupy protesters used social networks like Twitter to keep each other operating as a mostly cohesive unit.

The first protest started in Zuccotti park, in the financial district of Lower Manhattan. Within a month Occupy had 2300 camps in over 2000 cities worldwide. Each protest was separate from the others. Each protest had no leader. Each protest had the same goals and were unified under the Occupy banner.

Protesters all over the world were using blogs and social networks like Twitter to spread information and to organize. Due to the instant worldwide communication and the sheer number of people on Twitter, the protests were able to remain cohesive and appear to be unified despite having no traditional structure to work under.

Twitter was the most prominent social network for the global dissemination of information because of it’s huge user base and the ability to use hashtags to bring people together. On Twitter, the #Occupy hashtag was born, and through the use of that hashtag, thousands upon thousands of people were able to communicate instantly.

While other social networks maintained groups, such as the several hundred Facebook pages on the subject of Occupy, the #Occupy hashtag was usable by everybody. Completely democratic, like the protests themselves.

A newcomer had just as much ability to spread information as somebody who had been at Zuccotti park on the first day of the protests. The inherent equality that the Wall street protesters were hoping to achieve for the American people was simply built into the way they communicated over Twitter.

The speed at which Twitter works also allowed for people all over the world to organize their own protests. People from all over the world who were seeing Occupy Wall Street on the news were able to check the #Occupy Twitter hashtag and immerse themselves in the protest from the point of view of hundreds if not thousands of people. They could then join the conversation, broadening the scope of the protests, and in some cases even spread the information among their own Twitter followers.

While many protests have occurred at a large scale without the help of social networks like Twitter, the Occupy Wall Street protest was able to maintain a powerful force for over two months and even spread its message worldwide to millions of people with no leadership or traditional marketing of any kind. Because of Twitter, Occupy Wall Street wasn’t a fringe band of frustrated Americans trying to organize a protest. It was instead a public movement where every American was given the opportunity to share their opinion on social inequality.