Social Media Outrage against Fake COVID Tests: Decoding an Instance of Flash Activism in Bangladesh
Keywords:social media, flash activism, Bangladesh, COVID-19, corruption, authoritarianism
In this paper, we attempt to outline and to discuss how social media platforms provide the public a space, albeit unsafe, in quasi-authoritarian contexts to share their opinions and grievances on contentious issues. We focus on the case study of a short-lived yet intense wave of social media outrage against a corrupt actor, Shahed, in Bangladesh, who was accused of selling fake Covid-19 tests to the public. Identifying it as an instance of flash activism in the digitally-networked media arena, the paper brings out some of the characteristics that define this act of public outrage under increasing government surveillance, such as the brief duration of the protests, the public indignation that resulted in the online expressions of the outrage and users’ strategies such as employing humour and satire to express indignation and avoid being persecuted by the regime. Our aim with this short paper is to understand how the internet challenges authoritarian governments insofar as it gives voice to citizens to express grievance, how governments transform their legal repertoire to gag their population from voicing opinions, and how people still find new, innovative ways to express themselves under such regimes.
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