Donald Trump has said he would designate the amorphous organisation antifa (short for antifascism), a terror group, claiming without evidence that it has played a major part in fuelling the unrest. Arab Spring, wave of pro-democracy protests and uprisings that took place in the Middle East and North Africa beginning in 2010, challenging some of the region’s entrenched authoritarian regimes. So many people were using it that it appears that the regime backed off because they thought banning it might actually cause more problems [than leaving it].". Journalists have also been repeatedly shot at, arrested and pepper-sprayed by officers conscious that what they are doing will not look good on camera, Grygiel says. "This information has been instrumental in garnering the attention of the citizens of the world who expressed solidarity with those suppressed individuals and may even put pressure on their own governments to react. In Tahrir Square I sat one morning next to a 60-year-old surgeon cheerfully tweeting his involvement in the protest. Most often, though, they have tried to conceive them through the media that informed them – as the result of WikiLeaks, as "Twitter revolutions" or inspired by Facebook. Egypt saw 29 per cent growth compared to 12 per cent last year. Other uses for social media were to transmit information on medical requirements, essential telephone numbers and the satellite frequencies of Al Jazeera – which is continuously being disrupted.". All of which, as American media commentator Jay Rosen has written, has generated an equally controversialist class of article in reply, most often written far from the revolutions. A few thousand "geeks" like him communicated via Twitter, while perhaps two million talked on Facebook. Speaking recently to the Huffington Post, Rosen argued that those taking positions at either extreme of the debate were being lazy and inaccurate. But what I witnessed on the ground in Tunisia and Egypt challenged my preconceptions, as did the evidence that has emerged from both Libya and Bahrain. By Saleem Kassim. Just how integral its role was has been debated, it said, “with some camps labelling them the main instigators and others relegating them to mere tools.”, “Regardless, it can be stated that many of the calls to protest in the Arab region were initially made on Facebook,” it said. "If they became aware of you on Facebook they would try to divert your account to a fake login page to steal your password.". It’s no longer enough for social media platforms to claim to be neutral disseminators of information. “Twitter is such a ubiquitous program now, that it’s easy to get information just moments after it happens. The WikiLeaks pages on Tunisian corruption, says Koubaa, who with his friends attempted to set up sites where his countrymen could view them, were blocked as soon as they appeared – and anyway, the information was hardly news to Tunisians. Protesters, made up of anti-war activists and those demanding debt cancellation for developing countries, faced sophisticated and severe crackdowns by the police, who used tear gas and pre-emptive arrests, and who also had the means to jam activists’ communications. Abdulrahman Al-Rashed. This new ability to communicate not only instantly and globally, but to an incredibly large audience, was previously relegated to news agencies and other mass media conglomerates. Other hashtags – which are essentially search terms – “Jan25” had 1.2m mentions; “Libya” had 990,000; “Bahrain” had 640,000; and “protest” had 620,000. One day in Tunisia I meet Lina Ben Mhenni, who blogs under the name A Tunisian Girl. What began as a petition over fuel tax increases fused into an angry online tendency, which spilled explosively into the streets. Belabbes is currently a senior research scholar at Yale Law School. His latest book is The Twittering Machine (Indigo Press), This article appears in the 29 November 2019 issue of the New Statesman, The English Question, The attention economy is still working for Trump, How the Cambridge Analytica scandal unravelled, QAnon: how a paranoid delusion is growing in the UK. DUBAI // The most popular Twitter hashtags in the Arab region in the first three months of this year were “Egypt”, “Jan25”, “Libya”, “Bahrain” and “protest”. During the protests in Egypt and Tunisia, the vast majority of 200-plus people surveyed over three weeks in March said they were getting their information from social media sites (88 per cent in Egypt and 94 per cent in Tunisia). Then, the Mubarak regime – like Ben Ali's before it – pulled the plug on the country's internet services and 3G network. ( Log Out /  In many of the countries involved, communication can be difficult, particularly in times of civil unrest. We rely on advertising to help fund our award-winning journalism. The phrase “Twitter revolution” was coined by the US State Department, which was lobbying Twitter to keep the service up and running during the Iranian Green Movement in 2009. He was a recipient of the 2013 Democracy Award of the National Democratic Institute, and in 2016 became a World Fellow at Yale’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. Launched in July 2006, Twitter resembled TXTmob in its basic conception and political activists quickly seized on its possibilities. When the Arab Spring kicked off in 2010, commentators hailed social media as the great leveller - a radical new technology that could amplify voices, aid organising and connect people. This situation of open-ended protest can be hugely empowering. These and other findings from the newly released second edition of the Arab Social Media Report by the Dubai School of Government give empirical heft to the conventional wisdom that Facebook and Twitter abetted if not enabled the historic region-wide uprisings of early 2011. One possible reason is that many there have fled amidst fierce fighting between the regime and rebels. This in in a country that already tortured and imprisoned bloggers, and where the country's internet censors at the Ministry of the Interior were nicknamed "Amar 404" after the 404 error message that appeared when a page was blocked. Critics decry this as too little, too late. Create a free website or blog at Or it is a Libyan in Benghazi running with his phone switched to a jerky video mode, surprised when the youth in front of him is shot through the head. A far more mature and extensive social media environment played a crucial role in organising the uprising against Mubarak, whose government responded by ordering mobile service providers to send text messages rallying his supporters – a trick that has been replicated in the past week by Muammar Gaddafi. TXTmob (text mob) was born. Its role has been shaped too by how well organised the groups using social media have been. Twitter was one of the dominate ways that information about the Arab Spring was relayed from person to person. Around a week after Ben Ali's fall, I run into Nouridine Bhourri, a 24-year-old call-centre worker, at a demonstration in Tunis against the presence in the government of former members of the old regime. Last week #DeleteFacebook trended on Twitter, and this week its own employees have begun speaking out and walking out over its handling of the President’s posts. ", Recent events in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt have been called 'Twitter revolutions' – but can social networking overthrow a government? It is this, rather than the Twitter revolution, that is the true future of global protests. ( Log Out /  One of the major developments since 2011 and even 2014, when the first Black Lives Matter protests erupted, is that institutions like the police and government are much more social media-savvy. The activism of the first group informed that of the latter. In 2020, companies are pushed to consider who they are amplifying, and what purpose their technology is going to serve. Those at the vanguard of this argument include Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker (Does Egypt Need Twitter? Nearly 9 in 10 Egyptians and Tunisians surveyed in March said they were using Facebook to organise protests or spread awareness about them. The story of a university graduate forced to sell fruit who killed himself when he could not even do that proved to be incendiary. In Egypt, details of demonstrations were circulated by both Facebook and Twitter and the activists' 12-page guide to confronting the regime was distributed by email. Social media – its rise and its new activist uses – have “played a critical role in mobilisation, empowerment, shaping opinions and influencing change,” the report said. Though social media was helpful for some activists who participated in those movements, the majority had no access to these platforms. And despite the claims of Tunisia being a Twitter revolution – or inspired by WikiLeaks – neither played much of a part. The most recent example of this is the protests in Chile (see page 26). "Ourselves. As one protester there put it, the absence of the internet forced insurgents “to organise better”. Video of a demonstration – claimed to be a recent gathering in Iran – and placed on social media sites was actually a protest that occurred in 2009. Except one of the key facts wasn't true. Both companies face a choice between angering a President and right-wing establishment which accuses them of censorship, or alienating the users who want them to crack down on misleading posts. Egyptian-born blogger Mona Eltahawy says that social media has given the most marginalised groups in the region a voice. The claims of executives like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg that unfettered free communication between all people is unambiguously good now seem somewhat laughable. Fleet of 50 revamped Dubai Metro trains arrive in the emirate, Why super storms will become more frequent and more devastating, ‘Should end-of-service benefits include the full notice period?’, Joe Biden speech in full: It is time for us to come together as a nation. Change ), You are commenting using your Facebook account. Rosen is right. It's what I've been doing, even during the crisis. For those of us who have covered these events, it has been unavoidable. In a state where the media were tightly controlled and the opposition ruthlessly discouraged, Tunisia not only exercised a tight monopoly on internet provision but blocked access to most social networking sites – except Facebook. Demonstrators expressing political and economic grievances faced violent crackdowns by … Government attempts to ban such sites ended up backfiring, the survey of Egyptians and Tunisians found. Activists reverted to neighbourhood meetings, SMS groups and phone calls. Now, as then, it’s undeniable that social media has been a huge help for spreading the word. The authorities’ efforts to block out information, the report said, ended up “spurring people to be more active, decisive and to find ways to be more creative about communicating and organising”. In Tunisia, pre-revolution, only around 200 active tweeters existed out of around 2,000 with registered accounts. Vi vil gjerne vise deg en beskrivelse her, men området du ser på lar oss ikke gjøre det. Privacy experts have also feared how law enforcement can examine videos and images posted on social media to identify leaders and crush dissent, with protesters urged to avoid posting images that show people’s faces and identifying characteristics. In Egypt they spiked around February 11 when longtime President Hosni Mubarak stepped down. "We still don't believe the news and television," he says, a not surprising fact when many of the orginal journalists are still working. For neither the notion of the "Twitter Revolutions" or their un-Twitterness, accurately reflects the reality. The myth of “Twitter revolutions” is dying. Today’s show is the first of 2 parts. In Tunisia they peaked around the January 14 protest start date. But it is still unclear where the revolt will go. By continuing to use this website, you consent to our use of these cookies. Stay on top of Arab Spring latest developments on the ground with Al Jazeera’s fact-based news, exclusive video footage, photos and updated maps. Find the second edition of the Arab Social Media Report here. If Twitter had negligible influence on events in Tunisia, ... "Social media has certainly played a part in the Arab Spring Revolutions but its impact is often exaggerated on the inside. Our revolution.

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