It is no hidden fact that social media around the world has played a significant role in driving global revolutions and the effect of social media in Lebanon is yet to be discovered. There has been numerous cases, such as the case in the Arab uprising and raising public awareness to multiple causes including the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that took the world by storm or the Gangam Style phenomena that went viral and became the first youtube video to reach two billion views.
Lebanon, a country of just 4.5 million people, bearing almost 1.5 million Syrian refugees and struggling with it’s own internal political conflicts has been listed among the 10 least efficient governments in the world according to the annual report of The World Economic Forum’s annual Global Competitiveness Report. Taking the above into account, it is no wonder that crime rates are increasing in the absence of authority and the spread of corruption in the judiciary, security forces and in other state institutions.
2015, a bloody year in Lebanon marked by a rapid increase in the number of theft, domestic violence and murders.
The death of Georges al Reef sparked the outrage of Lebanese on different social media platforms pushing government officials and law enforcement to take immediate actions. The murderer, backed by a politician, had previous criminal cases filed against him and still walked free every time. The corruption surrounding the expected results of this murder case was taken on social media to demand justice.
The following results summarize the community reaction on both Facebook and Twitter
In no time, people started using
#JusticeForGeorges and other related hashtags (#RestInPeaceGeorges, #JungleLand, and #الإعدام_لقاتل_جورج_الريف) in their tweets to condemn the murder, to demand justice, criticize the country’s security status and also to help fund a campaign using #Indiegogo to support George’s Family.
The above trending hashtags gained traction attracting major public attention, engaging social conversations and multiple responses from influencers and the civil society. Below is a summary of the data generated from the hashtag: #JusticeForGeorge
The hashtag reached around 5 Million twitter users in 7 days!
The hashtag quickly spread also on Facebook, reaching around 19 Million users.
Lebanese blogs such as Blog Baladi, Gino’s Blog, A Separate State of Mind… also took part in the public debate by publishing articles commenting on the incident and reflecting the outrage of the local community.
Would the arrest take place this fast if the case hasn’t sparked such a public outrage?
Any case that becomes a subject of public interest, offline traditional media; TV stations, radios and newspapers will no longer able to hide or ignore a side of the story on the contrary most will be driven to push for governmental action in response to public’s demand for transparency and accountability thus people are having the power to shape media content and are no longer accepting whatever news they are being exposed to.
Social media has proved to be an effective wake-up tool and has helped develop community engagement but the effect of social media in Lebanon is hugely outstanding in the presence of governmental corruption in most of its public sectors and the need for public intervention. There is no doubt that Social Media is functioning as a catalyst for change but the question remains whether this movement can be translated to street action or not?