In June, a sea of blue washed across Twitter and Instagram in the wake of a deadly military crackdown in Sudan. It was a tribute to Mohamed Mattar, 26, an activist killed by security forces, whose Instagram profile picture was a solid blue block. The message was simple: #BlueForSudan; #WeStandWithSudan.

Tapping into social media to make political events go viral is not new: back in 2007/2008, Kenyan website Ushahidi was used to track post-election violence in that country; social media — Facebook in particular — was central to the 2010 Arab Spring; and SA’s #FeesMustFall movement gained traction on Twitter and Facebook...

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