If you ask an activist the most important technical development of the past five years, they’ll likely tell you about the rise of citizen media, the use of blogs and social networking sites to disseminate information, organize events and raise money. Ask an activist from the developing world the same question and you’ll get a different answer: the most important activist technology of the last five years is the mobile phone. The reasons for this are simple for most of the world; mobile phone penetration vastly exceeds internet usage.
When Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) banned access to social networking sites like Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia, Twitter, Flickr and numerous other websites most of the activists resorted to using SMS for disseminating information on Everybody Draw Mohammad Day. Some of the SMS that were treading the mobile networks included calls for boycotting Social networking sites:
“On 20th may not only on internet but around the world non Muslims are organizing an event to dram Mohammad day. Tonight before 12 AM logoff from all social network sites like Facebook, twitter, hi5 etc till 21st may. They all will face heavy financial loses. Plz forward to all your contact list.”
“Appeal to boycott Facebook by Mufti-e-Azam Pakistan Rafi Usmani Sb and Mufti Taqqi Usmani Sb. Please don’t even click the link of Facebook. Jazakallah”
Some to the extent of crippling Facebook by calling for botnet attacks: None of the web links worked other than forwarding you to some specialist hosting and application developer services. May be spammers had hijacked the whole protest.
“Please forward it to all. We are launching ping flooding attack on Facebook tonight code name “PING TO KNEES” to cripple Facebook servers. Go to www.lemonbit.net and follow the instructions”.
“This will surely work www.codeexperts.com/blockpage.htm Please visit this link as much as you can. Each click will send 22 thousand requests to Facebook which will hang their servers. Please visit it maximum for today and tomorrow so we can crash Facebook”.
And finally in the end when everything was exhausted messages such as this one were being forwarded:
“The boycotts made by Muslims against Facebook for the last 2 days, their losses have reached 2 billion dollars and if we continue for 7 days it will reach 40 billion dollars. Please spread this as much as you can”.
Facebook cash flow only turned positive in September 2009 and in the year 2009 its expected annual revenue was 550 million $ .
SMS activism is on the rise since the lawyer’s protest movement which was one of the first in the recent series of public protests in Pakistan to this latest one on “Everybody Draw Mohammad Day”. But the question remains is SMS spreading right information to the public or is it being hijacked by groups, corporations, political parties for their own agendas. This can be a very interesting topic of research on how SMS and social media networking sites are being used for spreading information to the general public without authenticating the legitimacy of source.