2014 in Review: Trends in Media and Communication in North America

by Pete Thomas on March 25, 2015

The Rendon Group’s Media Analysis Team works 24/7/365 to provide clients with global real-time news and information coverage. As our analysts follow the global information environment, they have noticed numerous emerging trends in media and communication throughout 2014. Our 2014 in Review series highlights fifteen (15) specific examples of how media and communications played a decisive role in some of 2014’s most talked about geopolitical issues and events. These examples, divided by region, will be posted on the Rendon Group’s website on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays over the next two weeks. Links to previously posted sections can be found at the bottom of each blog post.


NSA-Snowden Discussions, or Lack Thereof

Social media displayed unique behavior during the evolving discussion of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) domestic surveillance programs and Edward Snowden’s controversial role. Despite social media’s critical role as a platform for discussion, when it came to the NSA-Snowden issues, there was little chatter. A 2014 study by the Pew Research Center found that on Facebook and Twitter only 42% of users were willing to post about topics related to the NSA-Snowden issue and if so, usually only with agreeable audiences.  Here, instead of emboldening the discussion, the topical NSA-Snowden issue discouraged use of social media. The effects of the issue were seen worldwide, with a reported 64% of Internet users feeling more concerned about online privacy after the NSA-Snowden story broke.

#Ferguson – Social Media, the Good and the Bad

Protests, looting and clashes between police, citizens and even journalists occurred in Ferguson, Missouri, after the August 9th shooting of 18-year old African-American Michael Brown by a white police officer named Darren Wilson. Social media outlets covered the story from the outset, as hashtags of #Ferguson and #MikeBrown spread quickly on Twitter as symbols of racial inequality and police misconduct within American society. Thanks to social media, Ferguson became a national conversation and even helped organize demonstrations, such as several die-ins across the United States.

However, because anyone can posit any thought, theory or invented fact, Twitter and Facebook were also blamed by St. Louis county prosecutors for distributing speculation and misleading information, claiming it hampered their investigation.

Social media helped take the coverage and discussion of Ferguson international as reactions poured in from all over the world.  Over 3.5 million tweets worldwide were sent with #Ferguson in reaction to the decision not to indict the officer who shot Michael Brown. Much of the international debate focused on human rights, highlighting America’s contentious race relations.

#Ferguson and other social media coverage was divisive.  Where some felt it was an obstacle, others praised #Ferguson, Twitter  and other social media platforms for helping present a raw, open view as the incident unfolded, preventing any spin by authorities.  #Ferguson remains an active outlet on Twitter for the ongoing debate of prejudiced behavior of law enforcement towards citizens.

Cuban Twitter

In April 2014, the Associated Press (AP) released an exposé about ZunZuneo, a now-defunct USAID-funded social networking service marketed to Cuban users. Known as “Cuban Twitter,” the AP alleged the social media platform, designed as a text-messaging network, was a covert program to “foment unrest in Cuba.”  Rejecting this, the U.S. government explained the network was a discreet “development assistance program.”

According to the AP, Cuban Twitter’s premise was to introduce an “interactive social messaging network” for Cubans to eventually discuss political topics.  The intent was to incite flash mobs, protests and upset the “balance of power between state and society.”  Cuban Twitter was a political tool to foster organic growth of social media-based protests.

At it’s peak, ZunZuneo attracted 40,000 Cuban followers.
ZunZuneo’s revelation did shed light on the lack of Internet presence in Cuba, which is the lowest in the Western Hemisphere.  In reaction, the Cuban government announced plans to expand Internet access.

Please review our previous entry of the 2014 Year in Review: Global and the 2014 in Review: Latin America.

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