Just a few years ago, social networking sites began springing up and became ways to stay in touch with friends. Since then, the sites have evolved from simple online gossip forums and hangouts to tools for organizing people and instigating revolutions.

According to Stefan Wray’s 1998 article On Electronic Civil Disobedience, “As hackers become politicized and activists become computerized, we are going to see an increase in the number of cyber-activists who engage in what will become more widely known as Electronic Civil Disobedience…[It] will undoubtedly become an important element in the emergence of new radical social movements in the years ahead.” Such movements are already happening, as seen with the Occupy Wall Street protests occurring in New York and across the country, as well as with the Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas, Mexico.

As we’ve read, the Internet is a great tool for organizing people, not only for protests or rebellions but also for more lighthearted gatherings such as flash mobs. Improv Everywhere and the Urban Prankster Network are two organizations that come up with “missions” similar to flash mobs. Both organizations use emails and social networking to gather mass groups of people to execute their missions.

I find it fascinating an entire revolution can spring up online. One short email or Tweet, or a simple Facebook group, can be sent out to large masses of people who can then organize to achieve some common goal, whether it be to execute a citywide prank or even revolt against an entire government.

As stated in Wray’s article, it will be a long time before revolutions and civil disobedience go entirely online. For now, however, social networking and the Internet as a whole remain catalysts for physical revolutions, and “electronic civil disobedience [will] continue to be phased in as a component of or as a complement to traditional civil disobedience.”

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