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

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    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.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora