Social Networks Power Spain Protests

Article excerpt

MADRID (AFP) - Spain's anti-crisis protesters reject serious comparison with the Arab Spring popular revolts but they do claim a common weapon: online social networks.

Known as the "indignant", or "M-15" after the protest birth date, the activists began May 15 with a few hundred people camped in Madrid decrying Spain's parties for an economic crisis.

Now, even as nightly rallies diminish at their sprawling plastic tent encampment in Madrid's Puerta del Sol square, they count nearly 150,000 "friends" on Facebook alone.

Indeed, the social network is at the heart of a slickly organised logistical operation.

One activist, a 28-year-old translator who identifies himself only by his nickname Zulo, is dedicated to updating the Facebook page of "Spanish Revolution."

Connected via wifi antennae set up by neighbours and businesses and powered with solar panels, a dozen laptops are hooked up in the camp's "communication" stand.

Whether it is requesting supplies, giving advice in case of police intervention or linking to other city centre protests across Spain, social networks are "an essential tool for us", Zulo said.

"At first we were stunned, we were overwhelmed by the scale of the mobilization on the Internet, we received so many messages of support," said Zulo, his hair bunched up in a tail of dreadlocks.

In the first days after the creation of the Facebook page Spanish revolution -- https://www.facebook.com/SpanishRevolution -- the account had 1,000 supporters registering every hour. Now it has more than 146,000.

On micro-blogging site Twitter, the hash tags #acampadasol (Sol encampment), #notenemosmedio (we have no fear), #nosquedamos (we are staying) or #spanishrevolution have been among the most popular in Spain. …