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The role of social networking in the Arab spring

The role of social networking in the Arab spring

One of the most outstanding examples of how citizen journalism manifested itself I would refer to the so called Arab spring: namely, the civil resistance in Arab countries such as Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. In fact, low standards of living, the repression of basic civil liberties and other factors that led to the uprising existed far before 2010, but the world public has become aware of them simply because of the development of social networking.

The web activity of Tunisians, being the starting point for the rebellion, shows this point clearly. In my view, the strict censorship and the government's control of media outlets prevented the creation of liberal public sphere and the relevant dissemination of information within a state and beyond state boundaries. Nevertheless, by the means social networks such as Facebook and Twitter the world community was informed about the human rights violations and growing public discontent within the state.

In particular, Facebook became a tool to express the resentment towards Ben Ali’s regime, to encourage the public to participate in civil resistance, as well as to coordinate the actions of rebels. Because of the well-organized demonstrations and rallies, the resignation of the head of the state after 23 years in power was imminent. And as far as I am concerned, the situation has changed for better since new, freely-elected political forces have introduced more people-oriented policies.

Remarkably, the example of Tunisian online revolution was followed by the Egyptians who demanded changes in political and social life of the state. Facebook memorial page “We are all Khaled Said" encouraged thousands of Internet users to take to the streets of Cairo protesting against Mubarak’s dictatorship. The State security service undertook numerous attempts to block the operation of social networks, which, to my mind, clearly contradicts the democratic norms and values. However, these attempts have failed.

In the case of Libyan revolution, the information about repressions conveyed through social media has provoked a considerable response from the international public sphere. Although the government had attempted by all means to disrupt online communication in social networking, the opposition managed to create a blogosphere due to which the protestors ultimately gained international support.

I stress that the social uprising was a triumph of free people over repression and the triumph of social media over the censorship. It seems to me that we witness how social networking is transforming from the mean of social communication into political tool that can mobilize people to subvert hegemony and improve civic life within a state.

 
The article is based on the information from:
Arab Revolutions and the Social Media Effect by Harb, Zahera
Tweeting Tyrants Out of Tunisia: Global Internet at Its Best
BBC News
Al Jazeera website
The Guardian
Photo by Gigi Ibrahim, available under a Creative Commons Attribution license.


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