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Moldova: “Grape Revolution” / “Twitter Revolution”

Peaceful protests that took place in Moldova's capital Chisinau on Monday, following the victory of the ruling Communist Party in the April 5 election, turned violent on Tuesday, as protesters stormed and set fire to the parliament building.

Lyndon of Scraps of Moscow has been posting updates and translations of the blog, Twitter and media coverage of the situation in Moldova: in this comprehensive and insightful post, Lyndon links to some 30 different sources, and there is more relevant content to be found on his blog, tagged “Grape Revolution” (“If the protesters manage to hold out and dig in downtown, we'll be searching for a name – perhaps it could be the Grape Revolution, or the Wine Revolution, in a nod to Moldova's most famous non-human export.”).

Nosemonkey's EUtopia and Julien Frisch have more links to coverage of the protests. Here's one observation from Nosemonkey's EUtopia:

[...] But with both internet and phone networks down in Moldova itself, reliable information is hard to come by. The major Western television news networks are – so far – silent on events in this small, largely ignored country, and so (as so often) Google News is your best source for press reports. It’s all strangely reminiscent of the early stages of Ukraine’s Orange Revolution four and a half years ago, where the attention of the Western press was similarly slow to turn to the East, and information was similarly confused and confusing. [...]

Mihai Moscovici and kosmopolit are among those who have been posting regular English-language updates on Twitter; the latter also has two blog posts by a Chisinau-based guest-blogger – here and here.

While it's too early to speak of the outcome of the post-election uprising, one thing is sure: the impact of social media on facilitation and coverage of the protests in Moldova – which is known as “the poorest country in Europe” – has been outstanding.

Evgeni Morozov wrote this on Foreign Policy's net.effect blog, in a post titled “Moldova's Twitter Revolution”:

[...] Will we remember the events that are now unfolding in Chisinau not by the color of the flags but by the social-networking technology used?

If you asked me about the prospects of a Twitter-driven revolution in a low-tech country like Moldova a week ago, my answer would probably be a qualified “no”. Today, however, I am no longer as certain. If you bothered to check the most popular discussions on Twitter in the last 48 hours, you may have stumbled upon a weird threat of posts marked with a tag “#pman” (it's currently listed in Twitter's “Trending Topics” along with “Apple Store”, Eminem, and Easter).

No, “pman” is not short for “pacman”; it stands for “Piata Marii Adunari Nationale”, which is Romanian name for the biggest square in Chisinau, Moldova's capital. [...]

[...]

Ever since yesterday's announcement that Moldova's communists have won enough votes to form a government in Sunday's elections, Moldova's progressive youth took to the streets in angry protests. As behooves any political protest by young people today, they also turned to Facebook and Twitter to raise awareness about the planned protests and flashmobs. [...]

[...]

The related posts on Twitter are being posted at a record-breaking rate – I've been watching the Twitter stream for the last 20 minutes – and I see almost 200 new Twitter messages marked with “pman” (virtually all of them in Romanian, with only one or two in English). In the last few hours there have also emerged several “smart” aggregators of posts on the subject, like this one – they have to contextualize what exactly is happening — and this one for YouTube videos. Many blog posts are also being updated in real-time – minute by minute – check this one. There are also a plenty of videos on YouTube and photos, including those uploaded to Facebook. [...]

Andy of Siberian Light quoted from Morozov's post and made this comment about Twitter – “the latest darling of the Revolutionati”:

[...] Twitter is certainly how I found out about today’s protests. But I do wonder how much Twitter has really been used to generate the protests. More likely, I think, it’s been used (and used brilliantly) to get the word out to people outside of Moldova, and to make the world sit up and take notice. [...]

Rotterdam-based “networking enthusiast” Cezar Maroti believes it is somewhat misleading to label the events in Moldova as “Twitter Revolution” only. On Twitter, he wrote, here and here:

There are only 71 Twitter users in Moldova http://ow.ly/2idK This cannot have been orchestrated through twitter! [...]

***

We DON'T have a Twitter Revolution in Moldova. It's a Social Network Rev. Other SNs are also used: Y!mess Youtube Flickr Facebook [...]

Moldova: More on Twitter's Impact on the Protests

Day 3 of the post-election protests in Moldova's capital turned out to be comparatively quiet. Mihai Moscovici wrote this on Twitter on Wednesday morning:

No crowds today. Very few protesters now in the main square in Chisinau, Moldova [...]

And here is one of Moscovici's latest tweets, posted early morning Thursday:

No protesters in the main square in Chisinau. Now all is quite and calm in Chisinau, Moldova [...]

Discussion of the role of social media in organization and coverage of the events in Chisinau, which began as the initially peaceful Monday's protests grew violent on Tuesday, has continued throughout Wednesday as well.

Evgeni Morozov posted an update to his post on “Twitter Revolution” on Foreign Policy's Net Effect:

[...] 3. It really helped that even non-technology people in the U.S. and much of Western Europe are currently head over heels in love with Twitter. It's really good that the Moldovan students didn't organize this revolution via Friendster or LiveJournal (which is still a platform for choice for many users in Eastern Europe). If they did, they would never have gotten as much attention from the rest of the world. [...]

Rootwork left this comment, noting that this observation by Morozov appeared “particularly misguided”:

[...] This perspective is an example of collapsing the strategy and the tool. More specifically: Getting attention from the rest of the world is not automatically the objective of any given social change movement.

Most social change organizers know this. There are moments when you want to focus on building awareness and/or getting media attention, but that's often not the primary focus of the campaign. In the case of the Moldovan students, it could be that what was most needed was a way to get organizers to identify and strategize with one another — in which case Twitter would have been a very poor (or at least fantastically blunt) tool.

Such perspective is possible only if you think of Twitter as one possible tool, perfect for use in some strategies and rather ineffective in others. A near-religious belief in Twitter (or any technology) as a strategy leads to a narrowing of the actual strategy — getting the world to pay attention becomes the goal, because, hey, that's what Twitter can be effective at doing!

In this case, organizers might have gotten attention from beyond Moldova with a few dozen Twitterers, but failed at their primary goal of making opposition to the regime visible to other Moldovans.

More thoughts on this from Rootworkhere.

Also, Daniel Bennett joined the Moldova Twitter discussion on Frontline Club's blog – here, and the New York Times’ The Lede posted an interview with Mihai Moscovici – here.

Moscovici posted this tweet a few hours ago, and it seems like a good wrap-up for this discussion:

Western media don't understand #pman isn't about Twitter. #pman is about anti-communist protest in Chisinau, Moldova to demand re-elections.

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