Although I have started writing about social media and the Arab Spring, I may change it to compare it to the social media restrictions in China, as I think there’s too much already done on just social media and the Arab Spring.
What was the Role of Social Media during the Arab Spring?
(Focussing on Tunisia and Egypt as apposed to Libya as the government controlled the internet and cracked down more effectively and in Yemen where internet usage is low)
Three main findings
Role of women in activism
Egypt’s already technical country, median age is 30
Other artist research
Opinions about the subject
Own opinion on the subject
On December 17th, 2010, Mohammed Bouazizi, a twenty-six year old Tunisian street vendor set himself on fire in front of a municipal building in protest of the confiscation of his goods, reinforced with the harassment and humiliation he received by a municipal official. His act became a catalyst for the Tunisian Revolution and the wider Arab Spring, a revolutionary wave of protests and demonstrations, riots and civil wars in the Arab world.
Bouazizi’s sacrifice was one of the several subjects during the Arab Spring, which was documented and shared via social networking sites by many activists, first influencing the organisation of protests and demonstrations, which would be the primary catalyst of the Arab Spring.
Social media networks played a crucial role leading up to the revolutions and throughout, with many different ways in which digital technology was used. The use of mobile phones was used to record what was happening, allowing the people to photograph and record the truth without government censorship, in an attempt to educate a wider global audience and television broadcasters. Social media was used for the organisations of protests and demonstrations, and to connect and advise one another on dealing with police brutality. The internet was used as a platform for gathering information and news, and for a general means of communication. (add to this)
My research has come to the conclusion of three main findings:
Firstly, the role of citizen journalism to inform internationally
My evidence within suggests that the people of Tunisia and Egypt used social media as a way of connecting internationally in an attempt to spark global awareness. My focus here is on Tunisia and Egypt as apposed to other Arab Countries. Tunisia is known to have the most developed internet systems in North Africa, and Egypt suffered an entire internal system breakdown (add to this). This is opposed to Libya and Yemen, whereas the Libyan Muammar Gaddafi government was extremely effective in controlling and restricting the internet, reinforced with the fact that relatively few Libyans have internet access, so the severity of the situation wasn’t as damaging, similar to that in Yemen. (add)
As social networks helped to break down psychological barriers of fear and by helping to connect and share information with one another, it also served as a way for the people to connect with the international world. Journalism has to represent accuracy and truthfulness, and the role of news media is to present the people: honest, trust worthy, raw footage.
As citizen journalism was spreading so fast, Al Jazeera, a satellite television network, launched “Sharek,” meaning, “to share” in 2008. “Sharek” was employed to host a portal in which all citizen journalism could be easily accessible, in multilingual content, empowering the people to interact and record certain areas in which reporters may not be welcome, safe, or easy to access.
In 2011, Hillary Clinton praised Al Jazeera with
“Al Jazeera is gaining more prominence in the US, because it offers “real news” something she said American Media were falling far short of doing”
Also in 2011, Al Jazeera’s head of social media Riyaad Minty announced to the media 140 conference in Barcelona that Sharek was receiving up to 1600 videos per day. He also added
“We’ve received an enormous 70,000 videos from Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya and many other countries. At critical times we were receiving a clip every second. We’re extremely grateful to everyone who has sent in video – they have helped inform us and our viewers around the world.”
This is further reinforced by another citizen journalism service, Demotix, announcing that there had been a cultural shift in the mainstream media. Turi Munthe, the founder, said
“The main broadcasters are going out of their way to use cameraphones because the images look more authentic. In almost every image of Tahrir Square, there were people waving cameraphones.”
““We had close to 1,000 contributors shipping us images from north Africa. In Egypt, there was a feeling the war was being waged on two fronts – the war against Mubarak and the campaign to get the uprising all over the media.”
One prominent campaign powerfully fuelled by citizen journalism to portray police brutality was that of the WAAKS campaign, “We Are All Khaled Saeed” Khaled Mohamed Saeed was a young Egyptian man who was beaten to death by police in June 2010. Police had reported that he died from suffocating on a bag of narcotics in an attempt to discard of it, however, the photos that quickly circulated around social media strongly suggested that he was beaten to death by the police as photographs emerged showing Saeed with a disfigured face. There was a huge outrage amongst the Egyptians, and a huge support on Facebook, which ultimately led to four silent protests in an attempt for the state to not dismiss Saeed’s death enquiry.
The executive director for the ANHRI (Arab Network for Human Rights Information) Gamal Eid is an Egyptian activist and human rights lawyer. He founded the ANHRI in 2003, a non-governmental organisation committed to promoting freedom of expression, opinion and belief across the Middle East and North Africa. The organisation’s website has a huge amount of information regarding publications, reports and statements from 140 Arabic human rights organisations across the region and republishes for the easy accessibility of others.
“Today, there are many millions of internet users in the Middle East, but it remains difficult for users to find information about human rights. Hrinfo provides a central site where Arabic readers can easily find links to and information about all human rights groups and their work in the region. The Network also focuses on and seeks the expansion of freedom of expression on the internet in the Middle East..
In particular, there are critical areas that are not only taboo intellectually in the Islamic world and culture, but for which there are also no groups in the region today to even work on, such as, the death penalty, and rights of Christian minorities. Our objective is to create a space where these issues and other vital information about human rights can be discussed freely, and where people who share an interest in these areas can create a community. “
The “Katib” blog service is one of the ANHRI’s most prominent achievements. Available to all, the service is free of charge with no content control or censorship, promoting freedom of speech and expression. Anyone can contribute to the forever growing database where they can express own views and opinions, reinforced with the accompanying newspaper which includes highlights of the blogs to a wider audience.
(This section is too much… Should make this shorter then move this bit into another section)
Secondly, that social media was used as a platform to prepare, organise and inspire protests and demonstrations amongst the Arab countries.
There are many statistics showing that social media played a huge role in the preparation and organisation of protests and demonstrations. The Arab Social Media Report highlights and analyses online social networking usage across the Arab region. The series of reports aims to seek and inform a better understanding of the impact of social media, highlighting specific themes in each issue (such as the impact of social media, the growth rate, dynamics etc.)
This survey from the Arab Social Media Report series shows how social media can empower the population of a country to influence change. (Add to this)
In addition to figure 1, figure 2 shows how social media didn’t just empower people to make a change, but it altered their attitudes in terms of becoming more open, understanding, and willing to hear other points of view.
- The first mass protest in Egypt was announced on Facebook by an anonymous group of activists, who in a few days managed to attract tens of thousands of people. The social media proved a powerful mobilization tool that helped the activists outwit the police
- Nine out of ten Egyptians and Tunisians responded to a poll that they used Facebook to organise protests and spread awareness. Furthermore, 28% of Egyptians and 29% of Tunisians from the same poll said that blocking Facebook greatly hindered and/or disrupted communication.
- Reinforced with how advice was given to fellow protestors dispersing information about how to bypass police as they tried to diffuse the protestors.
Finally, that social media was used as a platform to share, spark and shape political debate
– Social media used heavily to conduct political conversations by young, urban, relatively well educated women.
– During the week before Egyptian president Mubaraks resignation, for example, the total rate of tweets from Egypt – and around the world – about political change in that county ballooned from 2300 a day to 230000 a day.
– Social media allowed civilians to talk with freedom, and to discuss, challenge and debate controversial issues, which couldn’t be freely expressed in public.
– Opposition from governments shutting down internet access and restricting it showed that the people were successful in intimidating the government to stand down.
HOW TUNISIA AND EGYPT ARE BOTH COUNTRIES WITH YOUNG INDIVIDUALS WHERE TECHNOLOGY WAS ALREADY VERY PRESENT. IN BOTH COUNTRIES THE GOVERNMENT HAS RESTRICTED MEDIA (how? Add to this) WHICH GIVES INDIVIDUALS A HIGH INFLUENTIAL MOTIVE TO USE SOCIAL MEDIA AS A MEANS TO A RELIABLE, TRUTHFUL SOURCE OF INFORMATION. WRITE ALL STATISTICS AND HOW THIS SHOWS THAT DUE TO MOST OF THE POPULATION BEING YOUNG, TECHNICAL INDIVIDUALS, THIS GREATENED THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE ONGOING INFORMATION. (showed that the influx in social media suggests the kind of people were young.
“ As of 5th April 2011, the amount of facebook users in the Arabian nation surpassed 27.7 million people”
WOMEN AND WOMEN USING SOCIAL MEDIA –
Opinions about my subject
It is still debated whether social media was used as the prime catalyst for social change throughout the Arab Spring. Although photography and filming recorded the raw truth, some may argue that, for example, non-visual social platforms such as Twitter may not be the most reliable source. As photography and film both represent the whereabouts, Twitter is very much different in respects that users anywhere could Tweet. As Twitter users from around the world would be able to Tweet posts regarding Egypt, they may not, however, be in Egypt, allowing these certain Tweets to be shared continuously and used as sources by some journalists, making some information bias or not reliable.
Some may also argue that due to the huge amount of information being passed through the internet through social media platforms, this allowed the government to effectively spy and intervene.