By Erica Dunham
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.
Independence Votes in Spain and the UK
Scotland’s referendum in September 2014 was widely discussed onsocial media. According to the University of Strathclyde, the referendum inspired more than 10 million interactions on social media over a five-week period. Though most of these discussions originated in the UK, social media users in Spain also joined the conversation, showing solidarity with the Scots as they faced a vote Catalans would face two months later. On Twitter, the hashtags #IndyRef, #VoteNo and #VoteYes were widely used. Many Twitter users began following the pro-Scottish Independence account@YesScotland and the account@UK_Together, which supported the Better Together Campaign. Additionally, Facebook accounts linked to both sides saw gains in their supporters. One article pointed out that while the Yes Scotland campaign attracted more followers, the Better Together Campaign was better at engaging its followers. Though the outcome of the referendum was in favor of the Better Together campaign, many believed it was the Yes Scotland campaign that won the social media battle.
In a largely symbolic vote, Catalans went to the polls and voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence in November 2014. The referendum concluded with a reported80.7% of Catalan voters said Catalonia should be an independent state. In the weeks leading up to the vote, social media was instrumental in uniting Catalans and sparking online discussions. Catalans took to the Internet to express their support of Catalonia’s independence, with pro-independence memes spreading on social media and users debating the topic on Twitter and Facebook. The Wall Street Journal reported that Catalan-independence supporters used social media to organize massive demonstrations, such as one where hundreds of thousands of people formed a massive V-for-vote in downtown Barcelona. In addition to social media, Catalans also took to crowd funding platforms, such as Verkami, to fund projects that documented the history and independence struggle of the Catalan people. Catalans also used Wikipedia to spread their story on the Internet. In the lead up to the vote,hashtags such as#Cataloniamattersbecause,#LetCatalansVote, #Cassolada,#9N and#9N2014 were widely used on Twitter, which played an instrumental role in online discussions.
Conflict in Crimea: Ukraine and Russian Media Coverage
As conflict erupted between the Ukrainians and Russians over control of the Crimean Peninsula, both sides proceeded to release different versions of the story. Over the past year, this trend in Ukrainian and Russian media coverage has continued to skew perceptions of the conflict. Recently, for example, a Ukrainian delegation—including a professor at Georgetown University— gave US Senator Jim Inhofe photos of Russian troops entering Ukrainian territory. The photos were intended to be used by Senator Inhofe to support a bill that would arm Ukrainian troops with military aid. However, it was later revealed that the photos given to Senator Inhofe were images from the 2008 conflicts in Georgia and Ossetia and not from recent conflict in Ukraine. Manipulated images and misinformation has become common for Russia as well, which uses images of citizens portraying various roles in the conflict. From Russian President Putin’s “big lies” regarding the crisis, to the Russian governments use of active measures, Russia’s role in the information sector has and continues to have a keen impact on perceptions of the ever-evolving situation. In light of this, websites such as StopFake.org have popped up to provide citizens on both sides of the conflict with unbiased information.
To read more about the controversial media coverage of the Crimean conflict, see TRG’s blog post entitled “Ukraine vs. the Russian Media.”
Please review our previous entries of the 2014 Year in Review: Global, 2014 in Review: Latin America, 2014 in Review: North America, 2014 in Review: Asia, 2014 in Review: Africa, and 2014 in Review: Middle East.
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