KyivPost

Role of social media in EuroMaidan movement essential

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Dec. 1, 2013, 5:31 p.m. | Ukraine — by Kateryna Kapliuk

A stream of messages in Twitter shows posts about EuroMaidan rallies.
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Kateryna Kapliuk

Unlike the Orange Revolution in 2004, the protests over the past week and a half in Kyiv, which have taken on the name EuroMaidan, have been driven by access to social media.

From the very beginning of the rally on Nov. 21, active Ukrainians communicated via such social networks as Facebook and Twitter and organized themselves without the support of politicians. "I am going to Maidan" was a popular post on that day, starting right after the government announced it halts preparations for signing a trade deal with the European Union.

The Facebook posts of Hromadske TV journalist Mustafa Nayem that followed, in which he called on other to go to Independence Square got more than 1,000 shares in mere hours. As a result, upwards of three thousand Kyivans gathered on the square late that night and occupied it till morning.

“The appearance of EuroMaidan is an achievement of primarily, digital communications in social networks and online media,” Maksym Savanevsky, founder of Watcher, a new media website, wrote on Nov. 29. For instance, the number of visitors of Ukrainska Pravda online newspaper that actively wrote about the rally nearly doubled on Nov. 21, reaching 550,000 readers per day. However, the number of people who visited Pravda’s website that day from links on Facebook increased nine times.

The official EuroMaidan Facebook page, created by journalists and civil activists, became the fastest growing page in the Ukrainian segment of the social network. Since its beginning late on Nov. 21, it has garnered more than 102,000 subscribers. During the first days of the demonstrations the page appeared in the top 20 of Ukrainian Facebook pages and became the most “talked about,” with almost 110,000 people who commented, liked or shared the page’s content.

Twitter, which until now has been underutilized in Ukraine, finally became a main and important source of information, simultaneously with Facebook. On Nov. 26 every one or two seconds a message with the hashtag #euromaidan was posted, according to Watcher website. On Nov. 21-28, the average number of Twitter posts that mentioned the hashtag reached 1,500-3000 per hour.

But social media is also a powerful tool for EuroMaidan opponents. According to Savanevsky, a number of bots used the #euromaidan hashtag on Twitter to promote similar provocative messages. “I was invited to EuroMaidan. Was offered Hr 100 (for participation). But I won’t go. I’d better go with my wife to the theatre,” some users, including women, posted on Twitter using the hashtag.

Kyiv Post staff writer Kateryna Kapliuk can be reached at kapliuk@kyivpost.com.

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