How Social Media is Changing the News: Xavier Damman at TEDxBrussels


Every once in a while there is a new iconic image that surfaces and changes the way we look at the world. In 1966, the NASA published the very first image of
our planet earth as seen from the moon. And it made people realize that we were all living on the same planet, all sharing the same resources. And we should better protect them. The ecological movement was born. 44 years later, I think there is new image that is becoming
iconic that is changing once again the way we can
look at the world. This image has been released by Facebook in
2010. It shows all the relationships on their social
network. If you look at that image, you realize that
we are not only living on the same planet but we are also all connected to one another, beyond boundaries. For the first time in our human history, anyone can share instantly what we know what we think, what we see, and what we feel. And this is changing the way we get to know
what’s happening anywhere on this planet. This is changing the news. We used to rely on news org such as the AP,
AFP, Reuters. And those organizations have a few thousands
reporters that they send all around the world to cover
what’s happening. There are 2 problems with that. The first one is
if you only have 3,000 reporters to cover the entire planet, it means that
on average and if they were distributed evenly, you will only have one reporter per 50,000
km square. Which means that for Belgium, we would only
have a part time reporter. Now I know there is nothing happening in Belgium
but still. So needless to say that they cannot cover
everything that is happening. The second problem is that
in countries where information is really controlled by the government,
it’s quite easy for them to identify who are those people, those reporters. And it’s quite easy for them to make sure
that they only got to see what they can see,
that they only got to share what they can share. We can solve those problems. Because today in this world where everybody
is connected, whatever is happening on this planet, wherever
that is, there always gonna be someone with a mobile
phone who’s gonna share publicly with the world
what’s happening. Like this guy who happened to be right in
the neighborhood in Pakistan where the operation that led to Ossama Ben
Laden’s killing took place. Now, this is not a reporter. But that day, at that time, he was. And in the same way that the best camera is
not the most expensive one but is the one that you have with you when
you need to shoot a picture, the best reporter is not necessarily the professional
one but is the one that happens to be at the right
time at the right place when something important is happening. So, instead of having to rely on a fixed rigid
network of 3,000 reporters, we can now tap into a network of millions
of people like you and me sharing instantly on social
networks what’s happening. And this is not only great because we can
reach remote places that we couldn’t reach before. But it’s also great because we can have a
different perspective on events. You can get closer to what’s happening. You can connect with the people who live there. Take a look at this picture. It’s been taken in Joplin, in the United States
after a tornado. This could have been a picture taken by a
professional reporter. He would have go there an hour after the fact,
take the picture and tell you “the church in Joplin has been destroyed”. It would just give you the fact. But instead, here, this is a picture that
has been taken by someone who lives there, someone who was there and he is saying: “This is where I got married, and my best
friend’s kids went to school”. Now, all of a sudden, this is not just a fact
anymore. It is much more than that. It’s a feeling. It’s something that touches, that can move
you. You better understand what he feels like,
you can relate to that person. And this is why I believe that
this is an extraordinary opportunity for humanity. It’s a fantastic opportunity to
help one another better understand what it feels like to live through this kind
of events. Wether it’s a natural disaster, a war like
right now in Syria, or an economic crisis and people losing their
jobs. By opposition, if you just look at the facts,
then you open the door to manipulations. Every other day fox news is bombarding us
with reasons, facts, about why Israel should bomb Iran. But when you look closer on social networks
where people are connected to one another, you start seeing a very different picture. People actually started this meme in Israel
about “Israel hearts Iran”. Saying: “We love you, we are not going to
bomb your country”. You don’t see this on TV. And that gives me hope. Hope that if we can connect people with other
people who live through those events, they can understand that behind any of those
news, any of those events, any of those facts, there are actually people
like you and me who have feelings, who are being impacted. This is how we can raise awareness, we can
raise empathy. And empathy is this beautiful thing that makes
us human. Empathy can be this thing that makes the difference
between war and peace. Such network is also much harder to control
and censure. It’s quite easy for an oppressive state to
control a few dozens reporters. But they cannot control hundred of thousands
of them, not to say millions. And this is what happened during the Arab
Spring which was an eye opener event for social media. It didn’t matter that information channels
were controlled by the government. People using their smartphone, technology,
networks were able to communicate, share news among themselves but also with
the rest of the world. But also in our Western countries. Last week there were the elections in the
United States. And we had this user on Storify called “VideoTheVote”. They were asking people to use their smartphone
and record their voting experience in the United States. And people were sharing that on social media
and then they were trying to see which were the most
interesting ones and then put that together in a story. They surfaced that particular video that shows
that in Pennsylvania, when you were trying to vote for Barack Obama, well, this is what happened. Even with that, Mitt Romney lost, I mean this
is so lame. Now it didn’t matter. Not this time. Because Barack won by such last margin that
it didn’t make any difference. But take that as a warning. Democracy is not a given. You need to fight for it and you need to keep
fighting for it. And the reason why our democracies were working
is because we had this watchdog, this counter power which was the media. But today in this world where everybody can
be a reporter, we are the media. And it’s our responsibility to use our voice. And whenever we see something like that to
speak up and let world know about it. The great think about the internet is that on the internet nobody knows that you are
a dog. Which means that it doesn’t matter if you
are black or white, if you come from Morocco, Africa or if you
are a native european, if you are young or old, poor or rich, able
or disabled, gay or straight, even Walloon. You have your place in this world. As long as you are willing to contribute, as long as you are willing to share information,
to make your voice heard, you have your place in this world. That’s the best thing about the internet right,
is that everybody has a voice. But the worst think about the Internet is
that everybody has a voice. So, it becomes very noisy. The question therefore becomes how can we
make sense of that how can we amplify the critical voices, the
voices that matter, the voices that are going to help you better
understand what’s going on. And that’s why we are building Storify. We are building Storify to enable journalists
to turn what people post on social media into stories that can reach and impact the
world. Because if everybody is a reporter, not everybody
is a journalist. We need journalists more than ever
to help us make sense of all of those reports. Which ones are true, which ones are fake? Why is that person legit? What’s the context? Help me understand the story but don’t tell
me the story, show me story. Help me connect with the people who live through
those events, help me understand what it feels like, let me feel empathy. That’s what we need. Now this is a gigantic task. Just during the Sandy hurricane last week, there have been more than 10 pictures shared
on Instagram every second. During the elections, more than 30 millions
tweets. Now luckily we are not alone. We opened the platform to anybody to help
us make sense of that social web. And we have the chance to have today most
of the largest news organizations from CNN to the New York Times, to the Guardian
to Al Jazeera and many more. And they are curating your voices and they
make them count. We also have students who use the platform
and one of them, Ben Doernberg, did this amazing story last
June. He saw on the web this video of a bus monitor
in the state of New York who was being bullied by students. That video didn’t have much traction. So he decided to make a story to tell the
world about it. And that story went viral. People started creating a fund to raise money,
they were hoping to raise $3,000 so that they could pay that lady nice holidays
and she could have a break. But after that story hit 3 millions views
they actually had reached, they had raised more than $600,000. And that topic became a national discussion. And for the story,
she didn’t use that money to go to Las Vegas, she actually created a foundation
to protect the people who were also victim of bullying. Now, if there were no reporters in that bus,
who would have caught on camera with a smartphone, the world wouldn’t have known about that story. But because today everybody is a reporter
there was one reporter. Could have been you, could have been me. And thanks to that, the world could know. It’s amazing to see how just a few voices
can really change society. That’s the most beautiful thing that we have,
the only thing maybe that we have is our voice. I really believe that free exchange of information
has a positive impact on the world. If the world doesn’t know about that story, nobody is going to do anything about it. We need to surface those things. So whenever you witness something that is
just not right, speak up. Building this global network where we are
all connected, where we can all share knowledge,
we can all share problems, solutions, share what’s happening. It’s probably the biggest human endeavor
since we put a man on the moon. But this time,
your job is not just to watch it happening on TV. This time, you are part of it, you can contribute
to it. This time you have a voice, you have a say. Your voice can,
can be this media, this counter power to our governments. Help us make them accountable, make sure that
our politicians, our unions are going to protect the general
interest and not their own interest. So you have a role to play. So stand up, literally, come on guys stand
up. I know it’s the end of the day but stand up. Stand up and pick up your phone that you have
in your pocket and turn it on. Light it up, show that to me. And if we can dim down the room
so that we can see the lights of all those mobile phones. Can we dim down the light? Come on, look at that, Look at that. Isn’t amazing? You guys have the power. The power is in your hands. This is your weapons, citizens. This is the way you can keep our democracy
running. This the way you can keep them accountable,
this is the way you can protect it. And look around you, you are not alone. We are everybody on the same boat. And altogether, we can help make the world
a better place. We can tell the world what’s not working,
what’s working. We can work together. And if enough of us are sharing information,
we can excite enough electrons that we gonna change the world. Thank you very much.

16 thoughts on “How Social Media is Changing the News: Xavier Damman at TEDxBrussels

  1. Congratz for what you did and how you did it Xavier (TEDx, pay it forward attitude, and so on…). It's really inspiring and helpful. I think that young web entrepreneur (and belgians) can be proud to see that you start changing the world citizens point of view with this amazing Story(-ify).

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