Social Media Critical in Arab Spring
The Arab Spring
No doubt, social media and various technologies played a pivotal role in the uprisings in the Middle East, now code-named “the Arab Spring”. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, laptops and mobile phones were some of the tools used to get the message across to all about protests in especially Egypt and Tunisia.
The protests began in December 2010 in Tunisia with citizens voicing their concerns on corruption, scarcity of jobs, inequalities and censorship among other things. In no time, the protests spread to most Middle East countries including Egypt, Libya and Syria.
Crackdown on civilians
Despite reports of crackdown on civilians especially in Egypt, where the ousted President Hosni Mubarrak, tried to silence the masses during the early days of the revolts, he failed. Internet and cellphone connections were disrupted, but the message was already out. Through social media tools, about one million people were mobilised for a protest in the Tahrir Square in Egypt.
Mubarak bows down
Due to increased pressure from the Egyptians, Mubarak bowed down – marking the end of a 30-year-old brutal regime. Other regimes destroyed included Tunisia, Libya and Yemen.
Mobile phones played a crucial role in spreading the word during the uprisings.
Social media as a means to organise protests
Social media was used extensively during the early days of protests to organise, spread the word and raise awareness about planned protests. Pictures and videos of violence perpetrated on civilians were posted on the internet. Tweets played a critical role too in the struggle as people were given instructions on where to assemble to evade the police.
BBC Correspondent feedback
The British Broadcasting Corporation’s Middle-East Correspondent, Peter Beaumont gave a brief on how social media played a pivotal role in the uprisings. He said he met a group of young Tunisians during a demonstration whom he asked why they were taking pictures using their phones. He was given the following response.
The power of facebook
“Ourselves. Our revolution. We put it on Facebook. It’s how we tell the world what’s happening,” he said.
The Tunisian Blogger
Lina Ben Mhenni, a Tunisian blogger told Beaumont that she blogged regularly during the uprising and followed up events as they happened.
“It was through Facebook that the first support groups were set up and the first demonstrations organised,” she says. “Social media was critical at a time when everything else was censored.”