The Power of Social Media in Mobilization Against the Finance Bill

The youth-led, social media-driven nature of the protests caught the government off guard and ultimately led to President Ruto declining to sign the bill into law after widespread unrest. The events highlighted social media's power in shaping political discourse and action in Kenya.

The ongoing protests against Kenya's 2024 Finance Bill have highlighted the significant role social media plays in mobilizing and coordinating civic action. Despite amendments to the bill, the widespread opposition and demonstrations underscore the galvanizing power of digital platforms. Here is an analysis of how different social media platforms have been utilized in these protests:

1. Facebook

Facebook, while being the oldest social media network, has shown limited mobilizing power in the current protests. The platform is predominantly used by older millennials and Gen X, who have historically been active in political movements but are now more conservative and less engaged in street protests. The content on Facebook is largely secondary information, marketing posts, and general discussions, making it less effective for real-time mobilization.

2. Instagram

Instagram, typically a platform for lifestyle and entertainment content, has transformed into a political tool during these protests. Social media celebrities on Instagram have been pressured to take a stand against the Finance Bill, leading to a surge in political content. This shift has made Instagram a valuable platform for civic education and mobilization, particularly among the middle class who are usually less politically active.

3. WhatsApp

WhatsApp has emerged as the most potent tool for mobilization due to its end-to-end encryption, which ensures privacy and security. It is widely used for organizing and coordinating protests, with numerous political groups forming to discuss and plan actions. The platform's familial feel and trustworthiness make it a preferred choice for sharing sensitive information and rallying support.

4. Threads

Threads, a new platform by Meta, is still in its early adoption stage and has not yet gained significant traction in the protests.

5. Twitter (X)

Twitter, now rebranded as X, remains the most effective platform for political mobilization. Known for its real-time updates and trend-setting capabilities, Twitter has been instrumental in organizing the protests. Intellectuals and activists use the platform to share critical opinions, create hashtags, and host Twitter Spaces for civic education. The platform's role in the Arab Spring and other global movements underscores its power in driving political action.

6. TikTok

Initially dismissed as a platform for entertainment, TikTok has become central to the current demonstrations. Gen Z has leveraged TikTok for civic education, sharing news, and uploading footage of protests. The platform's viral nature has made it an effective tool for spreading awareness and encouraging participation in the demonstrations.

7. Signal and Telegram

Signal and Telegram are considered secure alternatives for communication, especially if the protests escalate. Telegram is favored for its ability to reach large audiences through channels, while Signal is known for its strong encryption and privacy features.

Conclusion

Social media has played a crucial role in amplifying the message of the protesters and coordinating actions against the Finance Bill. Platforms like Twitter and TikTok have been particularly effective in mobilizing the youth and facilitating real-time communication. As the protests continue, the power of social media in shaping political discourse and action in Kenya remains evident.

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