This week, protesters scaled the Arc de Triomphe, burned cars, and clashed with police in the third consecutive weekend of riots in France. More than 300 people were arrested in Paris last weekend alone, and 37,000 law enforcement officers have been deployed around the country to restore order.
The “Gilets Jaunes” or “Yellow Jackets” protests have only gotten more violent since they began last month. Three people have died, hundreds more have been injured. To hear the protesters tell it, they’re marching through the streets to fight back against rising fuel prices and the high cost of living in the country. Beyond that, though, it’s an ideological free-for-all. Fights have also been witnessed among demonstrators, and some have sent death threats to other protesters.
But what’s happening right now in France isn’t happening in a vacuum. The Yellow Jackets movement — named for the protesters’ brightly colored safety vests — is a beast born almost entirely from Facebook. And it’s only getting more popular. Recent polls indicate the majority of France now supports the protesters. The Yellow Jackets communicate almost entirely on small, decentralized Facebook pages. They coordinate via memes and viral videos. Whatever gets shared the most becomes part of their platform.
Due to the way algorithm changes made earlier this year interacted with the fierce devotion in France to local and regional identity, the country is now facing some of the worst riots in many years — and in Paris, the worst in half a century.
This isn’t the first time real-life violence has followed a viral Facebook storm and it certainly won’t be the last. [Continue reading…]