If proof was needed that social media empowers people and fuels revolutions then you should look at the unfolding situations in #Tunisia, #Egypt and countries in the middle-east. Facebook, Twitter and Egypt’s own Masrawy have connected people and empowered them to share their thoughts and opinions on how their states are governed. The adoption of social networking in Arabic-speaking states has gone relatively unnoticed. Yet according to web research firm Alexa the top sites in Tunisia and Egypt are Facebook, Twitter and search company Google.
Anger and resentment at their respective Governments has found a nerve on people online, which has spread to citizens in respective countries.
Tunisia’s Secretary of State for Communication Sami Zaoui admitted at this week’s 2011 World Economic Forum (#WEF) about the impact that social networking had in the overthrowing of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Speaking to YouTube’s Uncultured Project Shawn Ahmed, Secretary Zaoui said, “Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have had great contribution to that [the revolution], in addition to, of course, all the demonstrators that have been in the field.” Secretary Zaoui also highlighted the fact that 40 per cent of the population being connected online to the success of the ‘Jasmine Revolution.’
But the demands from the population for work, food and democracy has spread through the region with Egyptian citizens taking to streets to demand an end of President Moubarak’s regime. Using the same sites as well as mobiles, demonstrators gathered to protest. Twitter, which is now blocked in Egypt saw a serve in use with people communicating and sharing messages using the #jan25 hashtag.
The outcome from the revolution in Tunisa unnerved the Egyptian regime, which took unprecedented action and blocked Internet services and mobile networks in the hope of quashing the uprisings. Demonstrators though quickly bypassed the authority’s firewalls and accessed the web through alternative means including the old dial-up system. Such a crackdown on communication brought condemnation from the international community.
Authorities in Egypt also started to censor and block news output, with Qatar’s Al-Jazeera having to broadcasting through alternative satellite frequencies after they were taken of air.
What social media has done is empower people. It has taught them how to overcome barriers and it’s enabled people to find a base where they can share their view and opinions. Opaque regimes have come under greater scrutiny with citizens wanting transparency and accountability. It’s enabled them to take action.