News / Middle East

Social Media Playing a Role in Arab World Protests

From the recent uprising in Tunisia to this week's street protests in Egypt, social media has been playing a role in helping protesters organize and draw international attention.  But whether we are seeing the ripple effect of what some analysts are calling a Facebook or Twitter revolution rolling through the Arab world is a matter of debate.  

A posting Tuesday on the video-sharing Web site YouTube, shot from the balcony of a high-rise apartment in Cairo, shows scores of Egyptian protesters rallying in the streets and fleeing authorities.

At one point in the video, a man stands in front of a water cannon daring it to move as a high-pressured stream is sprayed over his head.

The dramatic posting is but one example of how social media networks are being used to document and detail the real life struggle that is being played out online and spreading across the region.

The protests, which have spread from Tunisia to Yemen, Algeria and Egypt are attracting the attention of the U.S. government.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke Wednesday, urging authorities in Egypt to allow  for peaceful expression and to not block social media sites.  Egypt has blocked Twitter and Facebook in the wake of the protests.

Omid Memarian is an Iranian journalist and blogger:

"I think it is becoming more and more difficult for the authoritarian regimes in the Middle East to dominate their narrative of events," said Memarian. "They cannot be any more the only source of news and legitimacy."

Plans for the protests in Egypt, which began Tuesday and saw record numbers pour out into the streets, calling on President Hosni Mubarak to step down, were widely broadcast on the social networking site Facebook.

Activist organizers told ralliers where to meet and they were largely successful, despite a massive police presence.

Jillian York of Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society says that although social media was not used as widely for protest organizing in Tunisia, it played a bigger role in Egypt.

"For the past few days, I have been watching people on Twitter plan to use the hashtag #Jan25 for January 25th," said York. "And I have also seen things such as Google Docs  literally laying out plans for protests.  And so in this case, I have seen a lot more public organization on the Internet."

In Tunisia, a country where there has long been heavy censorship of the Internet, York says social media played a different role.

"[In Tunisia] It was a bit less clear as to whether or not social media was being used to physically organize protests," she said. "As far as my Tunisian contacts told me, the majority of organizing happened on the ground, offline and that social media was more of a tool to get information out of the country."

Tunisia's previous administration heavily censored the Internet, blocking opposition and dissident Web sites.  In a report this week in the The Atlantic  magazine,  documents how authorities in Tunisia hacked into Internet users accounts prior to the recent uprising and used a malicious code to record their information when they went to sites like Facebook.

That information was then used to shut down accounts.

Omid Memarian says that although social media has played a role in the recent protests in Tunisia and Egypt, those who are out in the streets are not necessarily there because of the Internet.

"There are many dynamics in place in these countries that contribute to the current turmoils and unrest," he said. "And mainly we have decades of repression in these countries."

Memarian says that the key engine of the protests has not been access to social media sites, but inequality, poverty and political desperation.   

You May Like

Bleak China Economic Outlook Rattles Markets

Several key European stock indexes were down nearly three percent, while US market indexes were off around two percent in early trading More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs