The recent uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East have been fueled by news and other communications relayed through the Internet in general and new social media such as Facebook and Twitter in particular. Iran has restricted access to Facebook and Libya reportedly cut off Internet access intermittently (perhaps following a precedent set in Egypt), which was seen as a means of eliminating communication between protesters and the outside world.
Some critics have said that the role of social media has been overplayed and that the movements arose from longer-term social forces. Yet one cannot deny that social media have played a major role in the events now shaking Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Syria, Bahrain, Iran, Yemen, and Libya. Read more about these events below.
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NEW! How Cyber-Pragmatism Brought Down Mubarak
This article in The Nation describes how “cyber-pragmatism,” or dissemination of historical examples of nonviolent social activists such as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King and organization of protests, through social media influenced the revolt in Egypt.
NEW! Facebook Officials Keep Quiet on Its Role in Revolts
Despite the major role played by social networks, particularly Facebook, in the revolts rocking North Africa and the Middle East, Facebook officials are trying to stay silent on the matter. This article details Facebook’s desire to remain neutral so as not to alienate countries where it has just gained a foothold, and its determination to continue its policy of requiring users to sign up with their real names—a policy that has been criticized for possibly putting dissenters at risk—though it has assisted Tunisian protesters in their efforts to block government attempts to access their passwords. The article also describes how other social media, such as Twitter and YouTube, have been more vocal in their support for the movements and even have taken initiatives to assist protesters.
NEW! The Twitter Revolution Debate Is Dead
This article from The Atlantic discusses how the argument that social media singlehandedly cause social movements that lead to revolution is passé and notes that authoritarian governments also can use technology to further their own goals, but points out that perhaps the most exciting development is that political pundits are now discussing the structure of revolutions and the role of technology in furthering them or subduing them.
NEW! All Eyes Turn To Internet In Libya, Bahrain
As part of efforts to stem growing protests, Libya apparently cut off access to the Internet at the end of last week. Internet access was restored, but was intermittent over the weekend. This article points out that the outages could have been caused by power failures and the relatively small number of Internet service providers in the country, but also describes how many believe that Internet access was deliberately shut down.
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