It all started on social media: #OccupyWallStreet
From its very beginning on September 17, the Occupy Wall Street movement sought to make use of the lessons learned from the Arab Spring in order to both organize itself and make its voice heard. Originally organized by the Canadian anti-consumerist magazine Adbusters but soon becoming an autonomous thing unto itself, Occupy Wall Street effectively evolved into a global phenomenon in the months prior, with nearly 1,500 groups listed worldwide at time of posting.
Occupy has made use of social media in many different ways. From the outset, Twitter has been both an important communication tool and way to create awareness of the movement. While one of the originating posters suggests #occupywallstreet as the official hashtag to communicate specifics, it was soon replaced by the much more concise #ows. Other communities soon joined, and hashtags such as #OccupyBoston, #OccupyDenver and, by mid-October, #OccupyLondon followed. Within weeks, #ows was one of the top hashtags online, with it being used in one out of every 500 tweets containing hashtags globally by October.
While the decentralized nature of Twitter hashtags makes them a particularly poignant way for movement users to interact, other, more centralized, social media has been used effectively by Occupy to accomplish various ends. Local organizers have created individual pages for their city, with the official Occupy Wall St. Facebook page currently having over 360,000 Likes. While perhaps more top-down organizationally than a Twitter hashtag, Facebook pages allow communication of Occupy-created media to a larger audience, in essence creating a more lasting social media presence than the more-ephemeral Twitter posts. Similarly, YouTube Channels like OccupyTVNY allow OWS’ media team to post video clips shot at various events, while its LiveStream channel allows them to broadcast events live as they happen, in addition to creating a very active IRC-style chat space for those watching.
In the future, Occupy seems poised to move to its own social media platform. Mashable reports that an Occupy-only, Facebook-like platform is under construction, with the intent of connecting protesters while securing communication against authorities who may subpoena traditional social networking sites — such as happened in Massachusetts to Occupy Boston’s private Twitter messages. Much like how Google launches products under an invite-only model, new users will need an existing user to “sponsor” their registrations.