#FreeCyntoiaBrown and the Power of Social Media | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

#FreeCyntoiaBrown and the Power of Social Media

Comment Editor Kat Smith explores #FreeCyntoiaBrown and the success of using social media to call for justice

On Thursday afternoon, I opened my Twitter feed in one of many moments of procrastination from my essay. The hashtag ‘#FreeCyntoiaBrown’ was the first thing I saw.

Turning to Google, the results page after searching ‘Cyntoia Brown’ was flooded with stories from most major news platforms explaining the case and the social media response.

So, who is Cyntoia Brown? She was once a child who endured relentless physical, sexual and emotional abuse as a victim of trafficking. At 16-years-old, she had the courage to shoot and kill the 43-year-old estate agent who picked her up for sex. Cyntoia Brown’s life sentence for murder as a result means she’ll be first eligible for parole when she’s 67.

But how is this only just coming out now, when her conviction happened in 2004?

But how is this only just coming out now, when her conviction happened in 2004? The 2011 documentary ‘Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story’ failed to gain the story recognition in the way social media has over the last view days. It seems that the support of Kim Kardashian-West, Rihanna and Cara Delevingne have thrown the otherwise unknown case into the public sphere. Kardashian is even believed to have enlisted her lawyers to help free Brown.

Although it’s saddening that this has been concealed for 13 years and is only projected into the limelight when celebrities back Cyntoia, it is also a testament to the power of social media and proof of the necessity for famous figures to use their platforms for good. It’s easy to assume that signing a petition or tweeting a hashtag is useless, but the undeniable success of change.org petitions, the Black Lives Matter movement and education of LGBTQ+ issues proves that the internet has a major part to play in public opinion and government action.

It is also a testament to the power of social media and proof of the necessity for famous figures to use their platforms for good

It’s proof that social media can be a force for good when we use it correctly; when hashtags like #FreeCyntoiaBrown’s trend, a conversation is not only generated around this case, but around the wider issues that they encompass. Furthermore, if social media was as prominent back in 2004, there would be no way of this being swept under the carpet. The watchful public eye exposes the unjust and must mean that people are less likely to act wrongly if they know the world is watching, as it so often is.

If social media was as prominent back in 2004, there would be no way of this being swept under the carpet

Although social media is terrible in some ways (self-esteem, procrastination, stalking… the list can go on for a while), it’s clear that it is pivotal in social movements. I therefore believe that famous figures have a duty to use their platform well, to use their popularity to raise awareness of issues. But we can help, too. Even if you’re just retweeting a hashtag-ed tweet or signing a petition, every little action is a step forward.



Published

3rd December 2017 at 11:00 am



Share