As a quick reminder, on June 5, 2013, the Internet and in particular social networks were monopolized by a new trendline: Snowden’s interview with The Guardian was released while he was in exile in Hong Kong. Snowden who revealed that the NSA spies on everybody including US citizens was considered by some people as a hero and by others as a traitor especially after he moved to Russia. Since 2013, Snowden received the support of many groups who believe that his actions were legitimate. These groups can be classified into different categories depending on the cause they are fighting for. The first category is about people that fight for human rights, and who believe that everybody has the right to privacy. An example is an organization known as Anonymous. They are mainly present on most social media and tend to have a major influence on the social media users. Many people identify themselves with the mission of Anonymous, which is to fight for internet privacy. They do not have any political affiliation, so people that are not interested in politics tend to follow this group a lot. Anonymous is well known for being a supporter of Edward Snowden, as they emphasize it in a video published on one of their Facebook page, the Anonymous legion:
On this video released on October 19, 2015, the organization anonymous delivered a message to their users about why they support Snowden and why other people should. They even compared internet surveillance as the same thing as a person breaking into someone else’s house to look for private documents. They consider Snowden as a real hero and have been supporting him since 2013. Another group that has significantly influenced Snowden’s support are the media. Indeed, trough many publications on their respective websites, it is evident that many media supports Snowden. For instance, the Guardian, which released the first interview, have continuously published articles which titles were for Snowden. Other media such as the New York Times or even the Washington Post Style have also published articles that were supporting Snowden:
Finally, the last core group that was identified is made of organization with tremendous political interest. For instance, Really American is an organization that was created for the defense of true democracy. According to their biography, the goal of this organization is to expose the weaknesses of the US political system. Really American, which appears to have been created during the 2016 elections to support Bernie Sanders program, is run by Nathan Mackenzie Brown and Adriel Hampton who are two social activists who want to use technology to bring awareness to people about the US political systems. This organization is very supportive of Snowden as well since they believe Snowden revealed the failure of the current government. In 2016, they have shared many articles about Snowden to make people understand that what he did was the right thing and that he is a hero that has sacrificed everything to protect American citizens:
Jill Stein and her activists are the last core group that showed constant support to Snowden. In fact, Jill Stein was also the candidate from the Green Party at the US 2016 presidential election. She is well known for considering Snowden as a hero and even said publicly that she would pardon Snowden if she becomes President. Her activists also embraced the same path as her by using her position about Snowden to run her campaign:
In a video published by Now this is election on May 2, Jill Stein clearly stated that she would not only pardon Snowden, but she will also make sure that he is recognized as a hero.
Throughout the semester, it is evident that Edward Snowden activists tend to be more active on popular social networks on which people can easily share things. In fact, many of these activists focus their mission on one main strategy: the repost. On some platforms like Twitter and Facebook, activists can post status, video, and photos and their followers are free to share it or comment on it. This strategy allows a wide spread of the subject and this is one of the main reason why “Snowden” as been present for three years now on these social media. Another very popular strategy used by activists on all social media is the use of memes of Snowden with some political figures.Particularly with this presidential campaign, many Snowden supporters used memes to influence the elections because they believe that since the democratic party thinks that Snowden is a traitor, their candidate, Hilary Clinton, should not be elected in 2016. Facebook and Twitter are also very efficient because Snowden supporters and even media that support him can share articles about the Snowden’s controversy that thousands of users would never be aware of if they had to read these articles on the actual websites. This feature is used by many activists to direct users toward interesting articles just by clicking on the link. YouTube is also efficient because Snowden’s supporters can make some small clips, by using sometimes remix culture, to produce a message so that more people would be aware of the issue with Snowden, and people that are already aware of that would not forget about it. YouTube is also advantageous because the videos can be directly shared on Twitter and Facebook which increased the viewing rate because people that might not be able to see a video about Snowden on YouTube could encounter the same video on Twitter because one the person they follow has shared it. Instagram is also more or less used by Snowden supporters, but as compared to other media previously cited, it is relatively ineffective. One of the main things that make Snowden support weak on Instagram is the way this social media works. It mainly focuses on photos and video sharing, but followers cannot share mutual posts like on other social platforms. Also, Instagram is more efficient on current issues rather than old ongoing ones like Snowden. This is why activists that used Instagram to supports Snowden barely bring awareness to hundred people sometimes way less than that.
At first, Snowden supporters were mainly concerned about the surveillance and the right to privacy that the NSA violated by spying on the US citizens. As the semester was aligned with the electoral campaign, the battle Snowden vs. NSA became more like a war between Democrats and Republicans. Most of the activist supporting Snowden began an anti-Hillary Clinton campaign because they believe that she would not have pardon Snowden just like President Obama. AS it was mentioned in previous posts, some of Snowden supporters where even for Jill Stein since she publicly announced that she would pardon Snowden.
The most interesting about Snowden’s supporters is surely the way they were able to keep the topic alive on social media for three years now. It is fascinating to know that people would take some of their time to advocate for Snowden. This demonstrates that these people believe in Snowden’s cause and are ready t fight for his freedom even tough they only know him through the Internet. Also, Snowden has supporters all around the world, especially in Russia and Germany, where people even created websites and video games to support him. The most surprising were by far the false information and hijacking that come with people pretending to support Snowden. As an example, many articles and YouTube videos suggested that Snowden as documents proving that Osama Ben Laden, al-Qaeda leader, was still alive and was, in fact, a spy for the CIA:
This information with no credible source may have impacted negatively the Democrat campaign since this man was claimed dead during Obama’s term. Also, many people use hashtags related to Snowden such as #Sowden, #freeSnowden, #EdwardSnowden to attract attention toward subjects that have nothing to do with Snowden at all. This phenomenon is particularly prominent of platforms like Instagram.
Snowden controversy is a great example in which the digital unites instead of dividing. In fact, people that support Snowden can come together on these different social media platforms to make one supportive voice. Without these social media, Snowden would have been forgotten a long time ago because foreign countries would not have been keeping him in their headlines. Also, only people that have a political interest would be more likely to be aware of the issue. In fact, monitoring this topic would not be possible because it takes only a few minutes to find information that was published when Snowden leak the information. However, if the only sources available were old media, it would have been tough to get all this information. Also, latent capacity tends to have contributed significantly to maintaining “Snowden” an active topic on social media. Pages that are only related to Snowden tend to be less efficient than pages like Anonymous, who supports Snowden but other whistleblowers and controversies as well, which keep this page among the most influential in term of support to Snowden. Because this page is so diverse, the can maintain the same attention any time that they post something on Snowden. Thus, social media appear to be one of the key element to Snowden’s freedom.