Public Diplomacy and Global Communication 2014b

What was the Impact of the Social Media FB & Twitter on Arab Spring?

What was the impact of the social media FB & Twitter on Arab Spring?

By Kamal Konda

The Arab spring was a revolutionary number of protests, some violent some peaceful which took place across various Arab countries. There was protests in Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, and Oman, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Sudan.The cause of the revolution is said to be the dissatisfaction of citizens with the local governments of the country. Some of the protests were seen to have positive impact, for example resulting in change of government whilst others not so successful, with violent responses by government authorities being received. There has been many claims that this upheaval in the Middle East known as the Arab Spring was highly impacted by the social media such as Facebook and Twitter. [1] The events that took part which are now known as the Arab Spring has created a debate about what the role of social media was during these events.

Here is an image of the type of events that took place during the Arab Spring. As you can see there was masses of people involved. The picture of the little boy praying shows that there was a feeling of hope that comes across from the people involved in these revolutionary protests. [2]

arabspring

The question arises whether social media sparked the Arab Springs. Some people believe that social media allowed the younger generations to discuss new ideas and gave them that platform where something can be planned in order to put their ideas across.  It is accepted that many activists used social media as a platform to gain support for the events that took place. Facebook, in particular provided information to those that were involved in the Arab Springs which the governments of the countries where the revolutions were taking place could not have control over. The majority of the countries where these protests did take place are known for the high level of control they exercise over their countries and the citizens of it and therefore social media was an aspect that was much out of the control of those running countries. It therefore allowed for events such as protests and demonstrations to be planned without much interference of authorities. [3]

Social Media definitely helped the message of the protests spread much quicker, therefore allowing more people to be involved in the protests and the message that was being delivered. Young people are known for their increased use of social media, therefore it arguably gave them an upper hand against governments who use Facebook much less. This is arguable easy to see given that the governments in countries such as Facebook did a lot to try and block access to social Media such as Facebook. This led on to protests with slogans on why Facebook should not be banned.

The above would suggest that social media had a significant impact on the Arab Springs. However, others have argued that the events during the Arab Spring was fuelled and spread as a result of the dissent of the people and whether there was social media available or not would not have had such a big impact on how those events unfolded and the widespread nature of them.

However, if we look at government action in most countries it would suggest media did have a big impact and was actually seen as a threat by most governments. For example in Libya, the Libyan government tried to influence the people by playing patriotic songs on the radio. This would suggest that the government was aware of how the public was being influenced.[4]

There is also the idea that social media was actually also used by the governments whom those protests were aimed against. Without admitting it, it was used tactically be officials to keep themselves in the picture of what was going on.

Overall social media definitely had a massive impact on the Arab Spring, from the initial knowledge that those involved in the change protests got from social media, to being used as a tool for planning as well as something that kept all those involved up to date with the events that were taking place.

[1] http://journalistsresource.org/studies/international/global-tech/research-arab-spring-internet-key-studies last accessed 20/03/2015

[2] Image at https://pdgc2014b.files.wordpress.com/2015/05/955a0-arabspring.jpg last visited 21/03/2015.

[3] Lever,R. Arab Spring: Did social media really spark revolutions? (2013) Washington.

[4] http://www.bing.com/search?q=arab+springs&src=IE-TopResult&FORM=IETR02&pc=WCUG&conversationid= last visited 21/03/2015.

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