Why Vine Mattered to Social Justice Movements

October 27th 2016

Vine, a social media app that allows users to create short videos, is on its death bed. Twitter, which acquired the company in 2012, announced plans to shut the app down on Thursday — much to the dismay of active users as well as those who relied on the platform back when it was one of the only means of recording and sharing scenes of protest and conflict during social justice movements.

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Vine's role in the Black Lives Matter movement was especially significant.

DeRay McKesson, one of the movement's most prominent voices, tweeted on Thursday that Twitter didn't have a video option and Periscope, the live video streaming app, didn't launch until 2015. 

To appreciate Vine's social relevance in 2014, one must think back to the protests that unraveled in the wake of the fatal police shooting of black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Reporters and activists used the app to share scenes of protest and conflict in real-time, capturing some of the most powerful moments of the movement's origins, which might've been otherwise missed by mainstream media.

Among those recording and posting six-second videos from Ferguson was Antonio French, a city alderman in St. Louis who compiled his Vines in a short documentary titled #FERGUSON earlier this year.

"Vine was very important in our documenting of what happened in Ferguson in 2014," French told ATTN:. "When I was initially out there, the first day that Mike Brown was killed, I was using Twitter and I started shooting video — and my first thought was to upload it to YouTube, but it took a long time to upload such large files."

"I remembered Vine and remembered how quick it was to shoot and upload videos, and so I started uploading Vine videos and, over the next few weeks and really months, I uploaded hundreds and hundreds of Vine videos that, when I looked back earlier this year and actually compiled them all together, it was over an hour of footage shot in six-second increments."

Asked whether he felt frustrated by the six-second limitation of Vine, French said "it was the best we had at the time" and compared it to the 140-character limit of Twitter. "Those constraints lent to how you tell a story. We told the story in that medium," he said.

Individual Vines from Ferguson sometimes received hundreds of thousands — even millions — of views

The platform offered an uncensored perspective into what would become a national movement, and it revealed tense encounters between protestors and police at a critical time.

In a statement published on Medium, the company emphasized that it would retain Vines online, though it would be discontinuing the app in an unspecified number of months. There are other apps that have — and will likely continue — to stand in for Vine (such as Periscope) in this social justice context. But many are nevertheless mourning the app's passing, and celebrating its place in social media history, for good reason.

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