Social media is continually evolving and is becoming the primary communications medium within some segments of the society. In this paper, social media is defined as any web-based applications aggregating users who are able to conduct one-to-one and one-to-many two-way conversations (Cohen, 2009).
The pervasiveness of social media and ready access to such has resulted in the formation of networked communities on the Internet and social media. The role of social media in protests and revolutions has garnered considerable media attention in recent years. Social networks today have made regime change easier to organize and execute.
Such social media platforms include blogs, micro-blogs, wikis, vlogs and video-sharing sites. Facebook, which currently provides for a global forum whereby in excess of 1 billion users are actively participating and sharing information. 680 million of them are accessing it via mobile devices (Facebook, 2012).This shows that people are communicating more openly and frequently as compared to the past.
Protesters can be considered as active users of social media. They have embraced the use of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, drawing on the features and capabilities of these platforms to amplify their voices, gathering support and organize their activities.
The Internet allows vast amount of information to spread widely across boundaries within a short period of time. This can be done via e-mail, forums and other social media sites. Social media broadens the exposure and increases the speed of information dissemination, with networks of friends and associates sharing the information instantly in a cost-effective manner. With the use of social media, movements are more flexible and have become more open to discussion for interested individuals. Live updates and information about the movement can also be delivered to participants instantaneously on the day of the event. Instead of organizing campaigns around fixed dates, protest movements can reach hundreds of thousands of followers with a single Facebook post or Twitter feed, launching a massive call to action in seconds.
Today, many successful protests that have taken place around the world begin with like-minded activists coming together on social media platforms, and India is no exception. In this paper, we would be focusing our discussion on the impact of the Internet and social media that was triggered by the 2012 New Delhi gang rape.
This case study will help us to understand and analyze the affordances and features of these social media platforms, which in turn influence and result in a change in the governance in India. We will also explore some of the other outcomes that social media has achieved with regards to the protests that are related to the New Delhi gang rape.
Background of the issue
Protests of differing scales happen almost every day in India. One example of past big-scale protests that took place is the 2011 Anti-Corruption movement against the government. Mass protesters tend to focus on legal and political issues including political corruption, or any other forms of corruption. The movement is primarily one of the non-violent civil resistances, featuring demonstrations, marches, acts of civil disobedience, hunger strikes, marches and rallies, as well as the use of social media to organize, communicate, and raise awareness. All these demonstrations aim to fight for citizen's rights and change current laws and policies in India.
The biggest protest that took place in 2012 which shook the whole India also gained worldwide media attention. The New Delhi gang rape protests all begun from a rape and murder that occurred on 16 December 2012, in Munirka, a neighbourhood located in the southern part of New Delhi, when a 23-year-old female medical intern was beaten and gang raped in a bus which she was travelling on, with her male companion. The only other passengers on the bus were five men and the bus driver, all of whom raped the woman (Trivedi, 2012). The woman died from her injuries thirteen days later while undergoing emergency treatment in Singapore for brain and gastrointestinal damage (Delhi gang-rape victim dies, 2012). All the accused, including the driver, were arrested in connection with sexual assault and murder (Bhatt, 2012).
The incident generated a widespread of national and international coverage and was criticized by different activist groups. Subsequently, public protests against the Government of India for not providing adequate security for women took place in New Delhi and other major cities throughout the entire country. More than 600 women belonging to various organizations demonstrated in Bangalore (Delhi gang-rape, 2012). Thousands of people also silently marched in Kolkata to show their unhappiness toward the issue and government (Kolkata walks in Silence, 2012). Protests have occurred online as well on social networking applications such as Facebook and WhatsApp. Tens of thousands of people have also signed an online petition protesting about the incident (Nandakumar, 2012).
In relation to this issue, sex crime rate statistics and incompetence of the police in Delhi were exposed and gained media attention. It was reported that almost 25,000 rapes were recounted to police in India in 2011, a 25 percent increase over the previous year. According to local reporters, this is a fraction of the over half-million rapes that are actually committed each year-almost one every minute. With less than 7 percent of the police officers being women, the police are also widely accused of gender insensitivity and apathy to crimes against women. In 2010, as many as 414 rape cases were reported in Delhi, the highest among 35 major cities in the country. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, the conviction rate in these rape cases was less than 35 percent (Josh, 2012).
The gang rape case that took place in Delhi ignited outrage among people from all around the world. With the aid of the internet and social media, this issue is made global and activists from all around the world can come together to fight for the same cause.
Capabilities of the Social Media
Social Media plays a pivotal role in today's society with its ability to reach out to people all across the globe. It allows small groups to garner support quickly and efficiently at a low cost and also allows the public to create content without the traditional filters. This is especially significant in the Delhi rape case since according to The Times of India (2009), India is projected to have the third largest number of internet users by 2013. Hence, we can predict that there should be an increase in citizen journalism and online activism, which will expose more previously covered-up cases in India. In our paper, we'll be looking at the five key social media platforms which have impacted the Delhi Rape case.
Facebook is one of the most popular social media websites today with over 1 billion users worldwide (Facebook, 2012), with the second largest user base in India (Prasad & Nandakumar, 2012). In the Delhi gang rape case alone, over 10 Facebook groups have being created to bring people together for the cause, one prominent example being a Facebook group which called for a one day "Aurat Bandh", in which women all across the country will not take work or take care of their families until the issue is set right. Even in a country in which the traditional view of women as caretakers is still seen as important, 2,100 people agreed to participate out of the 23,000 people who were invited (Prasad & Nandakumar, 2012).
A protest fighting for the safety of women and justice for the gang rape victim was also organised solely using a Facebook event by organisations including All India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA), student groups from Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union, Students' Federation of India, All India Students' Association and National Federation of Indian Women ("Delhi Gang Rape Case: Mega Rally", 2012). This event attracted close to 10,000 people which confirmed their attendance (I stand for safe Delhi, 2012). This shows the power of social media, not only in bringing together people with the same interests in fighting for certain causes, but also in bringing together organisations fighting for the same or similar causes. With online social media, these organisations are able to communicate and support each other in organising events, and garnering support easily and at a low cost. This strengthens the power of online activism as individuals are able to come together and do their part in fighting for a cause.
Twitter has been an emerging social media website in recent years with an estimated 230 million users worldwide, out of which 15 million are from India. Also, 200,000 Twitter users in India have an average of 500+ followers who read their Twitter updates on a daily basis (WATconsult, 2012). Upon the death of the victim of India bus rape case, many politicians, Bollywood celebrities and famous writers took to Twitter to express their anger towards the case and to send their condolences to the victim's family. India politician Ajay Maken tweeted "#braveheart no more! My head hangs in shame and my heart is heavy with grief. We failed as a society". The Prime Minister of India has also acknowledged that social change is required ("Delhi gang rape victim dies", 2012). On 19 December 2012, which is the day the victim underwent her fifth surgery, and 4th January 2013, #delhigangrape also trended on Twitter in India as people expressed their anger and prayed for the safety of the woman ("Trending topics", 2013).
This shows the capabilities of Twitter to be used in spreading ideas and opinions. Many politicians and celebrities have a large number of followers on Twitter who read their twitter updates daily. Also, with the retweet button, these followers can easily spread the ideas even further with just a click of a button. Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen's tweet "Women get raped in India every 20 min. But the authority doesn't want women to protest against rape. Not even for 20 min. #DelhiGangRap" had 200 retweets (Prasad & Nandakumar, 2012), showing the effectiveness of Twitter's retweet function in spreading of ideas and opinions. Hence, Twitter can be one of the most efficient ways to get ideas and opinions across internationally.
Also, video sharing website YouTube has joined forces with non-profit partner WITNESS and Storyful, a social news gathering operation, to launch a Human Rights Channel on Youtube. Their aim is to encourage raw-citizen video documenting on human rights issues, and to distribute these videos worldwide to expose power abuse cases which may otherwise go unnoticed. They also hope that this can be a platform to amplify previously unheard voices and empower the weak (Youtube, 2012). According to Olivia Ma, YouTube's News Manager, "nonprofits and activism" is one of the fastest growing categories on YouTube as videos can be used as an effective tool to highlight and show power abuse among individuals and government (Preston, 2012).
One of the most prominent examples is during the height of Arab Springs last year, 100,000 videos were uploaded from Egypt, which was a 70% increase from the previous 3 months (Youtube, 2012). The channel will also give background information of the issue and will educate users on using video effectively and safely (Preston, 2012). This will be an important source as it will act as a platform to collate videos and information about a particular conflict, and allows people to share their views and see things from different perspectives. Videos uploaded will show the issue from the eyes of the people directly or indirectly involved, to unveil situations that traditional media or the government may be hiding from the public.
iii) Online Petition Sites
Online petition websites have also played a significant role in today's online activism. There have been a significant number of victories, namely Indonesian police backing police corruption probe, President Obama's signing of the Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act into law, and a US Mother's petition for the removal of "pink slime" in ground beef used for school food ("Victories", 2013). Applying these victories to the Delhi rape case, there have been many prominent petitions online fighting for different aspects of this case. Firstly, causes.com (2012) has an online petition to the government, demanding death penalty for the Delhi gang rape case. The petition has 658,316 signs since 18th December 2012, with 11,094 comments from the public, mostly justifying their decision by saying that the culprits should suffer the same humiliation that the victim has faced, and to use this example as deterrence to prevent similar cases from happening in future.
Another prominent online petition on change.org (2012) is addressed to the commissioners of police in Haryana and New Delhi, ASP - Noida, Minister of Woman and Child Rights, Minister of Home Affairs and Deputy Commisioner of Gurgaon, and is petitioning for stricter laws and helplines to stop violence against women in Delhi and National Capital Region (NCR). To date, 7,514 people have signed the petition and they're looking for another 2,486 people to reach their target of 10,000. People who have or are signing the petition are also encouraged to state their reasons for supporting this petition, further strengthening it. The petition has attracted not only locals but also people from all over the world, which include people from Japan and the United States of America. Online petitions like these show the power of online social media in garnering support and bringing together people with similar interests, aiding these activists in fighting for causes they believe in, to bring about change in society.
iii) Mobile Applications: Whatsapp
Lastly, mobile applications such as Whatsapp has also been used in the campaigning against the Â Delhi Gang rape case. Many changed their Whatsapp and Facebook profile pictures to a black dot, which is a symbol of shame in a country where women are unsafe. Many college students have stepped out to express their anger over this issue and through this small yet symbolic movement of changing their profile picture, they hope to appeal for the dignity and freedom for women (Gugnali, 2012).
Impact of using Social Media
New media and implications
In the light of the brutal Delhi gang-rape incident, India's civil society began advocating for legislation to stem gender-based violence in all its forms and to ensure higher rape conviction rates and gender-sensitive law enforcements and justice systems. The intense media coverage of the New Delhi gang rape attack and the use of social media creates transparency to galvanize the protests mostly by young middle-class students. Under immense pressure, the Indian government has begun to take action to follow through on those demands.
i) New Ordinance
On 23 January 2013, a specially convened high-level committee headed by retired justice JS Verma, known as the Verma commission, was set up in the wake of the violent protests that followed the brutal gang-rape. A 657-page report was submitted to the government suggesting ways to protect Indian women and a rethink of Indian sexual assault law, calling for faster justice and harsher punishment (Mahr, 2013). The commission also recommended changes to Indian law and governance.
The commission made more than 80,000 recommendations in its report (Mahr, 2013). Among its key recommendations was that marital rape be made a criminal offense punishable with prison time. It also called for other legal changes that spoke to more fundamental cultural shifts such as an end to the humiliating and maligned "two-finger" test by which the doctor examines whether a rape victim has been sexually active before being attacked and for military members accused of sexual assaults to be trialled in civil courts.
ii) Changes in Indian rape law
The Indian rape law has also been changed to allow for stiff penalties for all types of sexual assault. The current law only targets three crimes against women - rape, using force to "outrage her modesty" and making rude sounds or gestures aimed at "insulting the modesty of any women." (Aljazeera, 2013) Now, the laws are updated and separate offenses with strict punishments have been introduced to include stalking, groping, sexual harassment and carrying out an acid attack. Moreover, for the first time, trafficking has been outlawed in India, with stiff penalties for both the trafficker and someone employing people who have been trafficked (Denyer, 2013). This will be a significant deterrence for India's huge child labour industry.
On 3 February 2013, India's President Pranab Mukherjee approved an ordinance strengthening existing sexual assault laws (Guha & Roy, 2013). This reflects the government's approach to use harsher punishments as a deterrent to help reduce violent crimes against women. The new law against rape in India will help to control the increasing trend of rapes.
While the ordinance incorporates most of the suggestions of the Verma-commission, there are some discrepancies between the Verma-commission and the ordinance. The government bowed to popular pressure by allowing the death penalty when a rape left a woman in persistent vegetative state (Huffington Post, 2013) However, in the commission, Verma advised against the use of capital punishment in rape cases but instead recommended that the minimum sentences be extended and life sentences be better enforced.
Women's and human rights groups urged President Pranab Mukherjee not to sign the ordinance into law and pledged to continue their protests because they feel that the ordinance fell short of the Verma-commission recommendations (Majumdar, 2013)
In addition, the government also showed its reluctance to address the accountability of the police and the army by ignoring some of the committee's recommendations of having members of armed forces accused of rape tried under civilian law, instead of being protected by a special law that gives them virtual immunity from prosecution.
It has also ignored the recommendation that parliamentarians charged with rape and other serious crimes be forced to resign their posts and that marital rape be outlawed. Officials defended the ordinance by reassuring that recommendations by the Verma-commission will continue to be debated in detail.
iii) The need to embrace new media
The gang rape incident exposed the Indian government's blundering efforts to join the social media bandwagon. Authorities were caught off guard when the outrage that started online and spilled into the streets of Delhi with tens of thousands of young anti-rape protesters. It was evident that the authorities were not fully prepared to deal with the anti-street demonstrations, given that the government is accustomed to a more controlled style of protest. This marked a turning point in India's history of political protest (Kazmin, 2013). The government is completely disconnected with the reality of the 21st-century urban India.
The rape case might also have been the tipping point because behind all the protests, there is an underlying accumulation of grievances like corruption and inefficiencies. People are expecting more engagement with the government and participation in the political process but the government is still using a top-down approach in disseminating information.
As the government battle unpopularity among its citizens, they are indicating a willingness to reorient their outdated thinking and take steps towards leveraging the benefits of social media. Now, the government is formulating a new policy and appointing a core team to train officials about social media (Lakshmi, 2013).
The high penetration of social media in the protest against rape in India also brought about some other consequences such as the change in culture within India, expansion of activism in India and also the increase in global awareness.
iv) Rise of the middle-class activism in India
The brutal gang-rape and subsequent death of a 23 year-old woman in New Delhi has shifted gender relations and sexual violence against women to the centre of India's political debate. There is a rise in participation from the middle class due to this incident. The people joining in the protests are drawn largely from cities and towns. In the past, these groups of people think of themselves as politically irrelevant and therefore they expect little of their government and usually seek solutions of problems from other sectors.
With an agenda, this large and now-awakened middle class is pushing forth good governance as the center of political activity. These middle-class citizens are demanding for the government and police to perform their basic duties for the citizens. They are demanding that the police and courts function fairly so that rape can be prosecuted in the manner required by law.
India's urban middle class is becoming a vocal and influential political force. Aided by social media, the middle class is increasingly able to mobilise as a coherent group, as evidenced by the crucial role it played in the anti-corruption protests throughout 2011 and 2012. While constituting roughly 15% of India's population today, the middle class is projected to grow to 20.3% by 2015-16, and 37.2% by 2025-26, and as a result its influence can be expected to raise further (Rajendram, 2013)
v) Rise of activism in the country
The New Delhi gang rape incident has awakened in the hearts of Indian citizens a new sense of civic duty and a new faith in activism to incite change. Indians have come together in the past to express outrage at how rapes are handled by Indian authorities and to support the safety of women. However, past protests were limited to their regions, and rarely inspired such massive youth participation. Thousands of Indians have gathered to protest in New Delhi in the weeks following the rape. Rallies have spread across the nation to Bangalore, Hyderabad, Guwahati, Kolkata, Mumbai, and Jammu (Upadhayaya, 2013).
Nationwide mass protests in India are not entirely new phenomenons in India. Most of the past protests have, however, been led by an activist or a political leader. This time, individuals are stirring of their own volition (Upadhayaya, 2013).
Social media platforms have become an integral tool in motivating activism among citizens. The news about the gang-rape itself and the protests spread easily to the rest of the country through its access to social media. As a result, many citizens became activists overnight and many men, not only women, participated. Social media help amplifies the voice of the activists enabling them to reach out to the other citizens and also acts as a form of communication platform between citizens and state.
vi) Global awareness of the issue
News and reports of protests in India has spread on the social media like wildfire. Inspired by the rallies and marches staged across India for nearly three weeks, demonstrations have also been held in other countries such as Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh - all countries where activists say women suffer high levels of sexual and domestic violence (Burke, 2013). Protestors called for legal reforms and also fought for rights for women.
This issue sparked global awareness and the United Nations Women eventually intervened by issuing a press release to show their concern toward to the issue. The content of the press release includes showing their concern toward the victim and issue, and asking Government of India to take appropriate actions. 'We call on the Government of Delhi and India to do everything in their power to take up radical reforms, ensure justice and reach out with robust public services to make women's lives more safe and secure.' (UN Women, 2012)
Protests also took place in Toronto where a group of women arranged a march, a protest that will culminate with the delivery of a letter demanding meaningful reform after the savage gang rape and death of a New Delhi woman (Dhillon, 2013). The case also affected Indians all Â across the world. In Paris, there was a march to the Indian embassy where a petition was handed over asking for action to make India safer for women. ('Protests in Paris', 2013).
Attributing to the Internet and social media platforms, the issue gained attention worldwide. Citizens from all around the world became concerned about this issue and also the need to fight for rights for women.
Limitations on impacts of social media
i) Patriarchal Culture
One main limitation in the use of social media to stop violence against women is due to the patriarchal culture in India. Although people may gain awareness and knowledge about the effects of violence against women through social media platforms, the largely patriarchal Indian society makes it difficult to change attitudes of people about the issue.
Many people, even the most educated, still prefer boys over girls and would readily get rid of a female child even if it was illegal (Hussain, 2012). Some scholars have argued that in contemporary India, a woman's ability to consent is non-existent, and that rape has become sex for many men (Grewal, 2013). The belief that women is of lower class is deeply entrenched in India. Rape remains a prominent display of patriarchal power. Even politicians were under the influence of its culture. Prominent politicians such as Botsa Satyanarayana, the Congress Party leader in the state of Andhra Pradesh, once attributed the rape cases to women staying out late at night (Faleiro, 2013). Â As such, the effectiveness of the use of social media will be limited by the patriarchal culture in India where the idea that women belongs to a lower class is deeply entrenched in their minds.
Another limitation is the country's ineffective government. As the overseer of the country, the government is responsible for the country, their people and civil servants. A good government should be transparent, accountable, effective and responsive to redress citizens' grievances. However, the fact that one third of its parliament members has criminal charges shows the unreliability of the government (Barney Henderson, 2009).
Furthermore, many politicians had indifferent responses towards the issue where they put the blame on women instead of being accountable. Many of them had Â different views from the protesters who were fighting for violence against women. One example is Abhijit Mukherjee, Congress MP and son of President Pranab Mukherjee, who said that the protesters in Delhi were doing so for fame and compared them to that of the Pink Revolution. Another politician, Banwari Lal Singhal, BJP legislator from Alwar city constituency in Rajasthan blamed the rape cases on the skirts that girls were wearing. (Raymond Ronami, 2012). As such, this substantiates our findings on the culture that exists in India.
Poor governance in India has also contributed a corrupted police force. Due to their meager income, the police resort to accepting bribes and hence do not handle rape cases fairly to protect the victims (Gardiner Harris, 2013). There have been instances of girls being raped in police stations by the those who were there to protect them or by the policemen that were in cahoots with the criminals themselves (Hussain, 2013).
Moreover, policemen who were more capable and less susceptible to corruption are in higher ranks and usually do not handle rape cases personally. Therefore, it is hard for rape victims to have their cases documented properly and receive the justice that they deserve. Investigations and court cases also take years to be processed and necessary actions to be taken on the rapists take a long time to be implemented. Hence, many victims do not believe that justice will be done and hence, will not speak about their situations while potential criminals continue their act of crime without the fear of its consequences.
It was shown in one of our findings where government figures showed that more than 95,000 rape cases were still awaiting trial in India. Merely 16 percent of them were finally resolved by the end of 2012. In addition, out of all the cases that successfully go on trial, only about 26 percent received convictions (Timmons, 2013). Thus, to make sure that the victim's case is reported, one had to contact a politician of a certain rank.
India also has a culture that considers the dishonoring of a woman to be the same as dishonoring a family and culture. Police choose to seek more time in protecting the woman's modesty and family honor instead of awarding justice to her. Therefore, women find no need in reporting cases of rape. As reported in an article by Huffington Post, the police had initially dismissed the Delhi rape and death cases as accidental deaths, which was said to be a slipshod investigation by the victims' mother. It was only after shops were closed, tires burned and a national highway blocked by aggravated villagers did the police register the case of rape and murder. It was also only then did the government step in and announced that one police officer was suspended for not "acting promptly" (Ashok Sharma, 2013).
For our case study, the police were indeed inefficient, where they waited for almost two hours before sending the victim to a hospital. Also, the male victim had to carry his friend on board the ambulance because policemen did not assist. After which, no other assistance was given by the police to the victims (Tomlinson, 2013).
iv) Limited direct/offline actions taken
As discussed earlier in the essay, social media has played a large role in gathering support for activist groups fighting for violence against women in India. The use of social media tools help to spread awareness, shape and influence views and attitudes as well as result in some change in action or behavior to reduce the violence against women. However, while social media has had indirect and intangible influences on the knowledge and attitudes of people as previously mentioned, concrete evidence of its explicit effects is lacking.
Most evidently, a limitation of social media can be seen in how seemingly dominant online sentiment does not necessarily translate to any actual behaviour or concrete actions taken. For example, although Twitter is effective in spreading ideas and opinions with its re-tweet function that may bring about a high level of interest and concern in the issue, people may not take any concrete actions. This causes a gap in their attitude towards the issue and their actual behavior.
Similarly, expressing similar opinions and attitudes towards the issue of violence against women on Facebook does not necessarily translate to real-life concrete actions offline as some people may only give support online; slacktivism. This can be further elaborated with the limitations of network groups. Network groups are groups of people with the same interests or opinions where awareness of an issue is created but does not mean that the members are committed. Although they have the same sentiments about issues online, it does not mean that they are fully committed to translate these strong attitudes into actions. Some researchers also point out that social media's power appeared to be limited to organising protests and failed to help those people create a stable government after the uprisings. (South African Press Association, 2013)
v) Digital Divide
Although India is projected to have the third largest number of internet users by 2013 (The Times of India, 2009), digital divide exists in India. Digital divide refers to the gap between people with effective access to digital and information technology, and those with very limited or no access at all. Only 3% of the country's population had access to home internet in 2011. (SiliconIndia, 2013) The existence of digital divide within India limits the effectiveness of social media since the use of social media will not reach out to everybody. As India's priority is for agriculture and rural development, they do not value connectivity as much as other countries such as Finland. (World Bank, 2012) In Finland, connectivity is viewed as a human right where every citizen has the right to Internet access. (British Broadcasting Corporation News, 2010)
In addition, despite having the world's second highest number of Facebook users,Internet penetration across the entire population is still below 10 percent according to the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI). (Canton, 2012) India is also among the worst performing countries in the world for digital inclusion according to consulting firm Maplecroft. (Neelamraju, 2012) Â
As such, the use of social media on the coverage of New Delhi Rape case may not reach citizens who do not have access to computers and those who do not have the relevant skills. For example, the wealthier, more affluent segment of the population, primarily based in urban areas, will embrace the use of modern communications technology compared to the poor based in rural areas. These groups of people living in the rural areas are likely to have Internet access and hence are not able to participate in the discussions online Â and actual protests even if they have a high level of interest or awareness of the issue.
Digital divide is not only the access to computers but the ability to use the tools that they have. The less educated in the lower caste system in India will not have the skills to use the social media platforms even if they have access. This limits the power of social media to gather support from these people to protests.
Conclusion and Future Trends
In conclusion, the use of social media platforms in the coverage and protests of New Delhi rape case had drastic effects as discussed in the impacts earlier. According to Philip Howard, a University of Washington communications professor, new media made a difference because it "has so fundamentally changed the way people think about their options". Social media in general, and Facebook in particular, provided new sources of information the government could not easily control and were crucial in shaping how citizens made individual decisions about participating in protests. It has shown how new media can alter information flows through mass media and how alternative communication spaces give the possibility for the public to create content without the traditional filters.
Through our research, we believe that with the capabilities of social media, citizens, especially the young middle class, will increasingly seek more information from new media sources online in future. The increased use of new media has undoubtedly contributed to increased knowledge and awareness of the issues around the world today which may lead to some change in attitude and in turn cause like-minded people to gather together and take action. There will also be increased connectivity in the country. With online social media, citizens and organisations are able to communicate and come together as the people receive information and share their views on issues raised on the new media platforms.
It is also important to understand that even though social media has the capability and potential to bring like-minded people together and do their part in fighting for a cause, there are still limitations. While new media has, and will continue to affect the governance in India, the role of traditional media should not be neglected. Traditional media will continue to be the main source for many due to the presence of digital divide within India itself where access to Internet is not available to all in the country.
In addition, as the government has been accustomed to controls on traditional media, they were unable to keep up with the rapid pace of Twitter and Facebook. The extensive media coverage has exerted pressure on officials to improve safety in the capital. With the increasing spotlight on new media and its benefits, it is also likely that the government will further use these platforms to appease the angry uprising citizens.