As anger mounts over the downing of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 that killed 298 people, including 193 Dutch, many people in The Netherlands have turned to social media to stage a protest. Dutch social media avatars have gone "black" and called for the bodies of their fellow citizens to be brought home at the soonest possible time.
According to reports, people on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have changed their social media avatars with a black square as a sign of protest with the hashtag #BringThemHome. The Malaysian jet carrying 298 people, majority of whom are Dutch, was shot down by surface-to-air missile by rebels over eastern Ukraine on July 17.
Reports said the social media trend began on Facebook with Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans among the first to change his cover picture on Facebook to black. Many family members and friends changed their profile pics to a black square to signify their support.
The black avatar trend spread to Twitter. Aside from the black avatar, the hashtag #BringThemHome was added. Social media data revealed the hashtag has been tweeted more than 7,000 times since the crash.
Dutch social media expert Remco Janssen said "a big snowball effect" had spread online as people changed their avatar to a black background to express their grief over the MH17 crash. He said many people in Netherlands feel their government is "not doing enough" to get the bodies of their fellowmen back.
The hashtag #BringThemHome has also been used in other countries like Australia, UK, U.S. and Canada which also lost countrymen in the crash.
The trending hashtag is most popular in The Netherlands which has a small population of 16 million. Janssen said some people described the tragic MH17 crash as their own version of 9/11, the biggest terrorist attack in U.S.
Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has launched Operation Bring Them Home to recover and identify the MH17 crash victims. The prime minister will be sending an Australian security team to keep the crash site in Ukraine safe while recovery operations are ongoing.
Reports said the major operation will be conducted in coordination with Ukraine and Angus Houston, the former Australian Defence Force chief and now retired Air Chief Marshal. The Abbott government has sent a C-17 military transport aircraft expected to arrive in The Netherlands within the day to help bring home the bodies.