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Political dissidents have always been difficult for governments to suppress, but political unrest is even more difficult to suppress in an age of Twitter, Facebook, texting and cell phones. Lou Heldman, a social media strategist at Wichita State University and former publisher of The Wichita Eagle and Kansas.com, says social media is starting to impact governments worldwide.
Announcer: If you doubt the impact of Twitter, Facebook and other social media on governments, consider recent political uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia and Iran. Lou Heldman, a social media strategist at Wichita State University and former publisher of The Wichita Eagle and Kansas.com, says it's difficult for a government to limit the reach of social media.
Heldman: "The problem for governments trying to limit communication is that it's a 24-hour, 365-day-a-year job that can never stop. As new communication technologies are coming online, it becomes harder and harder to keep it suppressed."
Announcer: Of course, the same social media tools used by political dissidents also can be used by governments against dissidents. In Iran, police eagerly followed the electronic trails left by activists, which helped them make thousands of arrests in the crackdown that followed. This is Joe Kleinsasser at Wichita State University.
Sound bite #1
Heldman says that governments have to deal with the explosion of social media. The sound bite is 14 seconds and the outcue is "hands of citizens."
Heldman: "Media is becoming more global, social, mobile and visual. Governments are having to deal with the impact of more communication tools in the hands of citizens."
Sound bite #2
Heldman says repressive governments are threatened by today's communication tools. The sound bite is 19 seconds and the outcue is "get the message around."
Heldman: "Repressive governments are threatened by communication tools in the hands of dissidents. Going back to the Soviet Union, there were always examples of governments trying to shut down communication and dissidents finding their own way to get the message around."
Sound bite #3
Heldman says social media doesn't cause political uprisings, but it accelerates them. The sound bite is 13 seconds and the outcue is "who oppose the government."
Heldman: "Social media isn't the match that begins these uprisings. They stem from longstanding grievances. But it is an accelerant. It provides a megaphone to those who oppose the government."
Sound bite #4
Heldman says the use of social media is a two-way street. The sound bite is 22 seconds and the outcue is "are now in prison."
Heldman: "This is a two-way street. Governments can easily follow the path through social media created by dissidents. In Iran, where there was an uprising last year, partially based on use of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, the government was able to trace back the people who sent the messages, and a number of those are now in prison."
Sound bite #5
Heldman says even democracies are having a difficult time dealing with the realities of new communication technologies. The sound bite is 13 seconds and the outcue is "can spread."
Heldman: "Democracies themselves are having a difficult time dealing with the realities of new technologies. Wikileaks is a perfect example of how rapidly secret documents can spread."