APEC debate finds a home on Facebook

APEC causing a (slight) stir on Facebook

Both pro and anti-APEC supporters are using the social networking phenomenon to garner support and fight for the political allegiances of Australia's Facebook community.

A Facebook group search on 'APEC' reveals fifty-four groups with less than a thousand members, spanning the entire spectrum of attitudes towards this week's APEC summit in Sydney.

The most popular groups range from the blatantly obvious: 'I wanna take to the streets to protest Howard, IR, Nukes and War at APEC' boasting 150 members; to the more subtle 'APEC Australia 2007'; a pro-APEC group for students and young professionals working at the summit with 130 members.

'Sydney, get over yourself. Be international for once. Embrace APEC!' attracted 54 followers, while 'STOP Bush APEC Campaign' boasts 45 current members.

Another, 'I'll be at APEC helping the police bash socialists and hippies', purports to be against the Howard government but sees it as the lesser of two evils, "lest we have some stupid low-socioeconomic hippies in charge."

'We want to borrow the NSW Police water cannon for something useful' rustled up 48 members, while tamer groups such as 'I plan on behaving myself during APEC' and 'Why isn't APEC being held in Canberra?' have similarly attracted less than fifty followers.

Other groups that have popped up take a more neutral or comical stance to the event, such as 'APEC- What a joke of a Public Holiday - Where are we drinking?' with 51 members dedicated to avoiding anything and everything to do with Sydney's CBD this week.

Tom Watson, a 22 year old self confessed follower of conservative politics, said he played an integral role in planning the group 'Aussies for ANZUS'; the second largest pro George Bush and APEC group on Facebook's Australian network.

"The motivation is to have a special interest group for the week-long assembly we will have in support of George W. Bush. It is to drum up support (for) the ANZUS alliance and show that their (sic) is a silent majority of citizens who support the American Alliance."

Ella Ryan, creator of the 'STOP Bush APEC campaign', says that her group is for people "who want to join the fight to stop Bush and the war on Iraq by attending an epic protest in Sydney at the APEC summit on Sept 8...They claim globalisation has benefited the world, but the gap between the rich and the poor is increasing at a rapid rate. Come along to support what you believe in: whether you're against the war in Iraq, or Bush's anti-climate change agenda or simply hate his frustrating stupidity."

At the time of writing, the fifty four APEC related Facebook groups boasted 344 anti-APEC and 305 pro-APEC members.

To put those figures on a scale of Facebook groups dedicated to addressing current affairs; there are over 500 groups dedicated to the merits and pitfalls of the Big Brother television series, meaning the social networking phenomenon is in no danger of becoming a bastion of high brow debate anytime soon.

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Andrew Hendry

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