Arab World: The Great Social Media Debate

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For months it seems, a debate has been raging over the role of social media in demonstrations. More recently, that debate has focused on Tunisia and Egypt, where sites like Facebook and Twitter were prominent in the organizing of protests. But now, as demonstrations rage in Libya and Algeria–two countries with Internet penetration under 15% and where social media seems to have played a minimized role–that debate is beginning to shift.

Much prominence has been given to the debate between academics and pundits, but the debate occurring on blogs and Twitter amongst individuals, who in many cases were part of these so-called “social media revolutions”, should not be ignored.

Yesterday, one such debate took place on Twitter.

@TheMoorNextDoor, whose blog is a prominent source on Algeria and the Maghreb generally, tweets:

Libya: shows how the Arab uprisings are really [about] Arab uprisings, not status updates and inspiration from Zuckerberg

He continues:

The Arabs are not tearing down dictators by “poking” them on Facebook or flooding their Twitter feeds with hostile tweets

Hungry people, humiliated people, discerning people make revolutions not Facebook

We will not hear them say: “Mark Zuckerberg was the leader of the Libyan revolution”

He expands his comments to include Algeria:

The Algerians do not face trouble in organizing, inspiring mass demonstrations [because] they cannot get to Facebook easily

And adds:

Social media adds speed & some clarity to events but does not change their causes or their nature

Egyptian activist and blogger @Alaa chimes in:

@themoornextdoor we use it in politics/activism/revolution not for some deep inherit reason, it's just cause we already use it

He adds:

@themoornextdoor adds speed to counter revolution spreading rumors and fear mongering also. soc media is no panacea it just is

@Grace8ming offers some advice:

@themoornextdoor @alaa this is why it's important to clarify that these are people-driven revolutions using the TOOL of social media… :)

@Niallkingsx has a question:

@themoornextdoor Maybe some social media users are claiming they created revolutions; the platforms themselves are not, right?

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