The French Yellow Vest Movement: A Demonstration of the Power of Facebook and the Need for Anonymity

France-Tear-Gas-Protestors-Yellow-Jacket

For the fifth time in barely a month, the French protesters hit the streets of central Paris again to express their dissatisfaction with the government’s economic policies.  The “Yellow Vest” movement, as the protest is now famously called, began on November 17 in Paris as a demonstration against higher fuel taxes and quickly spread and became a nationwide protest against the high cost of living. The president has so far offered tax and wage concessions in an attempt to end the protests but it seems the yellow vests want nothing less than a “Macron resignation.”

One of the most interesting things to emerge from the protests is the way the French Yellow Vest Movement has been organized–all through Facebook and Twitter. This shift in the way protesters are being organized has transformed average day-to-day people such as nurses, small-business owners, and even truck drivers into major influencers. All thanks to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media websites. Facebook, especially Facebook Live, has become the key driver for the protests. According to CrowdTangle, a company that monitors Facebook activities, most of these formerly unknown social influencers are now receiving more than 3 million views on Facebook Live videos sent directly from their phones.

Thomas Miralles, who is an admin of a French Protestors Facebook group, admits that without Facebook, there wouldn’t be Yellow Vests today. Miralles’ Facebook group has more than 305,000 active members. You can be sure this Facebook group and all the individuals are being actively monitored by the French government. The protest organizers have been relying heavily on Facebook Live sessions to share videos of police brutality and run polls to collect facts to talk about on TV interviews. There seems to be a great synergy between the online activities on social media platforms and the real protests on the streets.

The Need for Anonymity

While the use of social media in organizing and participating in protests is quite effective, innovative, and fun, it pays to exercise caution in exposing your real identity. In a world that’s becoming heavily reliant on social media in recruitment and other vetting activities, your actively public participation in protest events may come back to haunt you later in life. A simple protest photo on your Facebook account could potentially deny you a job opportunity in the near future. If you’re broadcasting Facebook Live messages about the protest or any other civil disobedience activity, it’s safer and wise to do it anonymously, if possible.

Many privacy advocates have frowned upon using Facebook for fear of their online privacy data. Would you join Facebook to join the organization of protests that you believe in?

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