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Facebook-driven protest in Colombia

13 February, 2008
By Allison Orr

Hundreds of thousands of Colombians have taken to the streets of Bogota to protest Marxist rebels.  According to the BBC, the protest was started by a 33 year old engineer, Oscar Morales, from his home less than a month ago on the social networking website Facebook.  Morales started the website to protest the conditions of hostages being held by FARC (Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia).

Over a quarter of a million Facebook users signed on to the group called "A Million Voices Against FARC" and the movement was taken up by the media across the country.  The support shown online encouraged Morales to start a "real life" protest, which took place on 4 February, with other rallies in solidarity held in 45 Colombian cities and towns.

There is an interesting article at openDemocracy, Colombia: networks of dissent and power, which provides more detail and analysis of the protests and the use of Facebook as an organising tool.  According to this article, some family members of FARC hostages, journalists and human rights activists have voiced their concern about the protests and the Facebook group, arguing that the message - "no more kidnapping, no more lies, no more deaths, no more Farc" - has been overly simplified.

"It is true that the Facebook group's initial lack of defined political "colour" made it sound - especially to the media - exciting and novel. At the same time, the group's accompanying statement reveals a degree of political naiveté (or worse) that leaves it open to such external manipulation. For example, it describes Farc as a "plague" that has waged a dirty war against Colombians for the past forty years. The problem with such characterisations - one very familiar to internet-based activism - is that in the interests of arousing sympathy and inciting the viewer/reader to action, they greatly simplify and flatten a complex history."

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