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The Exclusivity of Facebook


The dangers of primarily organising protests through the social network that is facebook have been highlighted recently in Wellington. On Saturday the 25th June a protest against the Nats proposed re-introduction of youth rates was to be held at the bucket fountain in Cuba Mall from 12 to 1.30pm. See

About a week before the event, e-mails went out telling people about it, for example on the UnionsWellington email list and the Wellington Workers' Solidarity Network email list.

This was part of a national day of action against youth rates.

But it looks like the organisers had a last minute change of mind - I am not sure exactly when, but a post only went out on Indymedia at 11.30am that they had changed venue, and none by email. I assume an earlier notice went out on facebook telling people of the change? Instead, the organisers held the protest outside the National Party office on Willis St.

As a result a number of people turned up at 12.30pm at the bucket fountain and found no protest in sight. They were dismayed and annoyed. A few people who are new to protests turned up, including one who had specially made a placard for the event. They are understandably pissed off and there is the danger they might not come to protests again in the future. Which is such a shame, as I know how hard it is get people to protests these days - particularly protests on class issues given the lull in class struggle and the lack of class consciousness in the general population. There were probably many others who went to the bucket fountain after 12.30 and found no protest in sight, nor anyone around to tell them of the change of venue. Given the sped up lives we live under neoliberal capitalism, I am sure many could not make the 12pm start but could make it a little later. By changing venue at such late notice, and not letting others know outside of the organisers' exclusive circles, the organisers showed much disrespect to these people.

Perhaps this is one reason why the numbers on the demonstration were so small? Dunedin had a much bigger protest of 120 people, and yet Wellington has three times the population of Dunedin, and I am told only 25 turned up. Perhaps this was the Dunedin protest was organised by a broad coalition of individuals and groups, and did not change their protest venue at the last minute?

Only 20% of the population is on facebook, and facebook is dominated by young people, if you are over 30 or 40 there are proportionately very few on it. Emails should have been sent to UnionsWellington and WSN etc but they weren't. And then there is the issue of facebook being a spy's dream - it is incredibly easy for the police to find out who is friends with who and to trace dissident networks through facebook, so at least a few of us refuse to go on it. If you aren't on facebook, or even if you are but weren't a friend of someone organising the protest, you wouldn't have heard of the change of venue. So please when you are organising protests, let people know outside of your exclusive circles.


Sounds like a bit of an

Sounds like a bit of an organisational fail to me.  Organising 101 should indicate that if you have announced something is on you make it go ahead unless you can give reasonable notice that it is off. 


Just want to point out that

Just want to point out that although I made the comment about the different location I was not involved in the organising of either protests (I use the word 'organising' very generously here). I'm amazed that I was the only person who noticed there were two different locations being promoted and I only wish I could have pointed it out sooner.

Toby raises some very valid points about what happened with the youth rates protest and personally I was quite pissed off about how the whole thing went down. I'm also not alone in this regard. For example at the facebook demo I bumped into a former coworker of mine who I hadn't seen in years. It was very encouraging that he had bothered to come along as to my mind when we worked together he was not in the slightest way politically minded. He left almost immediately and chances are hes unlikely to attend another demo in the future. Thats a real shame.

Firstly why was the protest called for the same day as slutwalk? And secondly why was there only one weeks notice? It was hardly necessary to organise such an urgent protest and a few more weeks would have allowed for more work promoting a demonstration. It would have also allowed for more of an opportunity to coordinate between the two different organisers. Frankly I get the feeling that the reason this protest was only really promoted on facebook is that the timeframe for organising it was far too short.

I really hope this kind of thing doesn't happen again. However I fear organising demonstrations may devolve into a who-is-the-quickest-to-make-a-facebook-event type of thing. Facebook is really not a great medium for organising demos lets be honest.

I fully agree with Toby on

I fully agree with Toby on all the problems mentioned with relying solely on facebook as an organising and communication tool. Well said!

However, I would like to comment on a different point. You write:

As a result a number of people turned up at 12.30pm at the bucket fountain and found no protest in sight.

Why can't the people who turn up at the arranged meeting place - one even had a placard - have a protest? Presumably it was only a small number of people etc. But why was there no protest in sight? What was missing to make this group at the Bucket Fountain a protesting group?

I get the feeling that certain people (organisers or 'known' activists, the ones who bring the leaflets, banners and megaphone etc) weren't there (they were a few hundred metres away at the 'real' protest) and therefore it was decided the gathering could not be a protest. That is just as worrying as people only relying on facebook to organise protests, because it suggests that in the absence of an assumed leadership, a protest cannot go ahead. This is a dangerous path for protest movements, even if they are as small as the Wellington left.

As a result a number of people turned up at 12.30pm at the bucket fountain and found no protest in sight.

smush I wandered up to the

smush I wandered up to the bucket fountain to see if I could spot people and bring them down to the other protest. There was a performing artist there so heaps of people were already crowded around to watch him, it wasn't really possible to distinguish protesters from spectators so I left. That may have been part of the problem.

I don't think you can put the

I don't think you can put the lack of protest down to "the absence of an assumed leadership". Given a vacuum, people are usually quite able to organise themselves, but if they turn up expecting something to be happening, they are unlikely to spontaneously organise, if only because they are wary of messing up something somebody else has already planned. When nobody knows what's going on, people tend to worry about inadvertantly stepping on other people's toes.

Interesting article and

Interesting article and comments, thanks. I have that feeling in Christchurch sometimes too. If we also had time to organise a better rally we would have had more people. At least the people who did come were vocal and colourful.


Boycott Facebook

If you are a FB user, by all means spread the word to your friends about political issues and events using their services, but I agree that FaeceBook has some major failings as a way to do political organising online. The fact they are happy to engage in political censorship is one of a number of good reasons to boycott them.

In the late 90s, many of us used ad-supported corporate services like eGroups/ YahooGroups because there were no alternatives. That's not the case now. There are now many non-profit, activist-run group sites like, and, using free code software.

Companies like FB want to own your social network, and sell it to their advertisers, as well as providing it to governments and other snoops. We need to support the idea of federated/ distributed social networking - where users on one social site can add friends and share with users on another site. Imagine if we could only email people who used the same email host as us?!?

For more info on alternatives to FB, check out my blog post on Disintermedia, Transition to Web Free

Protests and other actions should be announced widely

Due to privacy and other concerns I do hardly ever use Facebook. Once you post things on it, it more or less becomes the property of Facebook, and they can use and abuse at least some of the information you make available for other purposes. Also do I consider it dangerous to post some private, frivolous and revealing information on this type of media, because it may be fun and cool while you are young, but one day your easy going activities may come to haunt you.

Otherwise Facebook profiles are being used by various interest groups, and that is OK.

Re activities, pickets, protests or whatever it should be the smartest and best approach to use various ways to announce these. Facebook may be one way, but there is the 'Events' column on this forum, same as there is the chance of using other websites, papers, leaflets, placards, radio and more to announce any activities/events either by way of "community notices" or whatever else. Sadly this does not always happen, and hence it is not surprising that some activities have little tournouts.

Thanks for writing this

Thanks for writing this article and putting it out there to aotearoa activisim that facebook is only one way of organising and publicising, and not a very good/security culture consious one at that.

far to many protests and political events are exclusivly or almost exclusivly organised though facebook and as others have commented, its very issolating to those who have oppted out due to very genuine concerns. or have not opted in due to inaccesibility to internet or spare time etc

im really glad these issues have been raised and as 'communitys' we need to discuss and critique how we organise before we are faced with the stress of an upcomming demo.

i didnt like the way the dunedin protest was organsised or run. perhaps a debreif would be usefull.

I knew about this protest,

I knew about this protest, but was also attending the (much larger) Slutwalk protest on the same day. I texted one of the organisers whom I know personally, and she told me where the protest was moving to, at Willbank Building in Willis St.

I didn't make it there due to a late bus, so just carried on to the larger event.


I think their larger organisational problem was not co-ordinating with the more widely advertised event, which many of their support out-network may have favoured over a quick rant at an empty office building.

Is this true?

Good grief - yet more embarassing evidence that the "protest movement" in New Zealand cannot organise a piss up in a brewery.

Set a date at least 6 weeks in advance at a common well known meeting point, them move on from there to the target venue ...

Post and paste copious quantities of leaflets and posters, zerox copies are fine - with arresting graphics - on walls, noticeboards, on telephone poles, then do it again when they get scrapped off, then do it again.  The Central City of Wellington can be plastered by a small team of 3 to 5.  One man alone could do a lot.

Pay attention to attention grabbing slogans.  They work.

Procure assembly permits first for a large gathering or circumvent this requirement by breaking up your meeting points and busing people in from their own locations if you really want to be a bit anarchic and take your chances (live dangerously and enjoy better sex).

Stay offline if you can ... especially to protect plans and procedures.  Its just good practice.  Make the secret police get on their hands and knees to scrape through your rubbish like they used to have to do before the internet made us all lazy.

Remember, prison is not a virtual domain and traumatic injury is real.

Avoid the full moon if you sincerely hope to avoid greater potential for strife and violence.  Biorhythms are a scientific fact and the police are just as prone to feeling wound up and a little crazy as any one of the significant percentage of the population that feels these things ...

Start your protests with a Karikia, a prayer, a solemn invocation. If you yourself are incapable then find a Kaumatua or a priest who will provide this service for the common good.

Plan and protect - think defensively, be proactive.

Just do it.

Best advice ever.

Best advice ever.