How social media affected the arab spring


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This presentation was presented during international seminar "Youth for Arab Baltic Cooperation" that was held in Vilnius, Lithuania on 19th-25th of November.

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How social media affected the arab spring

  1. 1. Social media tools have continued to grow inpopularity throughout the first quarter of 2011.Facebook and Twitter, for example, have expandedtheir user base and platforms significantly.Facebook has over 677 million users as of April(with the Middle East constituting one of theregions that contributed the largest amount of newusers) Its mobile users have exceeded 250 millionsubscribers.Twitter users also exceeded 200 million users atthe end of March.Collectively, these 200 millionusers tweet about 4 billion tweets a month.
  2. 2. The first three months of 2011 saw what can only be termed asubstantial shift in the Arab world’s usage of social mediatowards online social and civil mobilization online, whether bycitizens — to organize demonstrations (both pro- and anti-government), disseminate information within their networks, andraise awareness of ongoing events locally and globally – or bygovernments, in some cases to engage with citizens andencourage their participation in government processes, while in other cases to block access to websites and monitor andcontrol information on these sites.Figures 1, 2 and 3 illustrate the Internet blackouts in several Arabcountries during first quarter of 2011.Egypt’s blackout lasted forfive days, from January 28 – February 2. Meanwhile, Libya - atthe time of accessing the site (April 20, 2011) - still seemed tobe suffering from low Internet access and reduced traffic. Conversely, in the case of Syria, with the lift of the ban on social media websites by the government on February 7, YouTube andother social media traffic increased significantly.
  3. 3. Figure 4 shows some highlights of the first quarter of 2011in both citizens’ and governments’ use of social media. The former includes an example of the innovation that emergesin times of crisis. The latter ranges from the Egyptian military council creating Facebook pages to engage with theirconstituents, to Syria unblocking access to previouslyrestricted social networking sites. Moreover, it is not just governments and citizens that arewrestling with the new political uses of social media. Thesocial media companies themselves are facing a dilemmawhen it comes to addressing this kind of usage, theimplications it may have, and how to maintain the neutralityof these sites without infringing upon their users’ freedom ofspeech. As Figure 4 shows, Facebook had to contend with thebacklash from the Israeli government surrounding the ―ThirdPalestinian Intifada‖ page before eventually taking it down atthe end of March. The page was recreated two days later, and as of mid-April has close to 170,000 ―likes.‖
  4. 4. This is not to say that there was a causal relationship, or thatthe Facebook pages were the defining or only factor in people organizing themselves on these dates, but as the initialplatform for these calls, it cannot be denied that they were afactor in mobilizing movements.However, given the small Facebook penetration in most ofthese countries (notably Syria and Yemen), it can be arguedthat for many protestors these tools were not central. It canalso be argued that Facebook was an instrumental tool for acore number of activists who then mobilized wider networksthrough other platforms or through traditional real-lifenetworks of strong ties. Egypt, for example, has a relativelylow penetration rate of 5.5%, but given its largepopulation, that translates into around 6 million Facebookusers, who in turn are connected to a much larger number ofsocial contacts who can be influenced by information fromthose with Facebook accounts.
  5. 5. Conversely, the protests themselves seem to have led to a rise innumber of Facebook users in the region. The countrieswhere protests occurred have all shown a positive growth rate,except for Libya, which could be explained by the number ofexpatriate workers leaving or switching Facebook locations.Moreover, as Figure 6 illustrates, by comparing the growthrate for each country during and following the protests to a similarperiod just preceding the protests, we notice that thegrowth rates have doubled and even tripled in some countries. The numbers themselves do not illustrate the type of usage, ofcourse. Some usage may be political, with other usage purely social and not entirely related to the civil movements at thetime. But the exponential growth in the number of Facebook users coinciding with the protests in each country doesindicate the need for further research to explore the possible correlation.
  6. 6. As a first step in taking a closer look at theusage of Facebook during the protests and civilmovements, the Governance and Innovation program at the Dubai School ofGovernment conducted a survey that wasdistributed through Facebook’s targetedadvertising platform to all Facebook users inTunisia and Egypt.The survey ran for three weeks in March 2011,and was conducted in Arabic, English and French.There were 126 respondents from Egypt and 105from Tunisia.
  7. 7. In both countries, Facebook users were of theopinion that Facebook had been usedprimarily to raise awareness within theircountries about the ongoing civil movements(31% in both Tunisia and Egypt), spreadinformation to the world about themovements (33% and 24% in Tunisia andEgypt respectively), and organize activists andactions (22% and 30% in Tunisia and Egyptrespectively). Less than 15% in either countrybelieved Facebook was primarily being usedfor entertainment or social reasons
  8. 8. The majority (at almost 60%) of Facebook users in each country felt that the main impact of blocking the Internet was a positive one for the social movements, spurring people to be more active, decisive and to find ways to be more creative about communicating and organizing(see Figure 8).
  9. 9. In Tunisia, the primary language of use wassplit almost evenly between Arabic andFrench, while in Egypt 75% mainlyused Arabic and the remaining 25% usedEnglish while communicating on Facebook.(Figure 9).
  10. 10. When it came to politicians’ use of socialmedia, Tunisia and Egypt diverge slightly. AsFigure 10 illustrates, a significantmajority of Facebook users in Egypt (71%)would rather vote for a candidate thatengages with citizens through socialmedia tools, whereas only 47% of Facebookusers in Tunisia would.
  11. 11. Not surprisingly, given that the survey isconducted among Facebook users, socialmedia figured highly in both countries as asource of information during the civilmovements (94% of people in Tunisia saidthey got their news from these tools, while88% of people in Egypt did). Both countriesalso relied the least on state-sponsoredmedia for their information (at 40% and 36%of people in Tunisia and Egypt respectively).More Egyptians relied on local media thanthey did on regional or internationalmedia, while the reverse was true in Tunisia.
  12. 12. This edition of the Arab Social Media Report focusesboth on Facebook and Twitter usage in the Arabregion.This section, specifically, provides an update onFacebook usage during the first quarter of 2011,continuing from the last report, which provided anoverview of Facebook users through 2010. As such,the number of Facebook users in all 22 Arabcountries, in addition to Iran, Israel and Turkey, wascollected periodically between January and April2011, in the following age brackets — youth (15-29),and adults (30 and over) — as well as by gender.Below are the key findings:
  13. 13. The populations for the Arab world used in thisreport were compiled from the United NationsILO Department of Statistics.All of the figures in international reports conflictwith more recent official GCC populationnumbers. Replacing some of the populationfigures with more recent figures from NationalStatistics Office (specifically for the GCCcountries) drastically changes the Facebookpenetration rates within the GCC (see Table 1and Figure 12). These official population figuresare acknowledged as the more accurate data, butILO numbers were used to ensure consistencyacross the Arab region.
  14. 14. Moreover, when comparing the uptake of Facebook in Arabcountries with that in some of the ―Top 10― countries (in terms of Facebook penetration worldwide), several Arabcountries still outpace the Top 10 in terms of new users acquiredthroughout the first quarter of 2011, as percentage ofpopulation. At the beginning of April 2011, eight Arab countries hadacquired more Facebook users (as a percentage of population)than the US, one of the highest ranking countries in the world interms of Facebook penetration. In comparison, Turkey has alsoacquired a large number of new Facebook users (both as apercentage of population, and in terms of actual numbers), andhas outpaced a lot of the Arab countries (Figure 13). With over3.6 million new Facebook users signing up between January andApril 2011, Turkey has acquired almost double the number ofFacebook users that Egypt has over the same period (1.95million) (Figure 14).
  15. 15. On a regional level , the Arab countriescan be divided into three groupsaccording to their rates of Facebookpenetration (Figure 15).
  16. 16. The demographic breakdown of Facebook users indicates that they are a youthful group. Youth (between the ages of 15and 29) make up around 70% of Facebook users in the Arab region, indicating a slight increase in the number of users over30 years old since the end of 2010. Moreover, the UAE is still the most balanced in terms of adult and youthful Facebookusers, while countries such as Somalia, Palestine and Morocco persist in having a predominantly youthful Facebook userpopulation (see Figure 17).
  17. 17. The gender breakdown of Facebook users shows a slight increase in the percentage of female users, rising from 32% atthe end of 2010 to 33.5% in the first quarter of 2011. This is still significantly lower than the global trend, where womenconstitute 61% of Facebook users15 (see Figure 18).
  18. 18. In terms of Facebook usage, Lebanon isstill the most gender-balanced of theArab countries, followed closely byBahrain, Tunisia and Jordan, while at theother end of the spectrum Facebookusers in Somalia and Yemen areoverwhelmingly male.
  19. 19. Facebook users across the Arab regionalso vary in their preference of languageinterface. Table 2 and Figure 19highlight the three main languages usedon Facebook in the region(Arabic, English and French) and thepercentage of Facebookusers that preferto use each language interface.
  20. 20. In the context of Egypt,• the majority of the silent Egyptians have been inactiveand afraid when it comes to Human Rights violationspracticed by the state against some fellow citizens.• Less privileged people are denied some rights likedecent jobs, housing, clean water, etc.• It also refers to the way police deals with less privilegedand not connected people or individuals subject toinvestigations in the police stations.
  21. 21. Human Rights Watch in its report issued in 2001stated that the Human Rights challenges inEgypt are shaped by the continuation of applythe emergency law since October 1981 after theassassination of president Sadat. It added thatthe return of political violence in the early 1990smade the government put laws that allowedsecurity and intelligence organizations to actwithout legal constrains.
  22. 22. the president’s statements in almost all his speeches tothe Annual conference of the ruling National DemocraticParty NDP had always the terms ―Social justice‖ and―economic growth‖ repeated. In one of the news piecesof Egypt News website on Nov. 2nd 2008, the title was;―Mubarak: Egypt concerns of Economic growth, socialjustice
  23. 23. • 6th of April movement; succeeded in influencing a public strikeon the same date in 2008• It was not them alone, people were also afraid to go out to workthat day• Passive or active reactions alike were extremely important to thesmall step that made Egyptians think different even for a day• They were able to think different by just being informed thatsuch strikes were not impossible.• Of course reach such a point needed preparation work andextensive mobilization of youth forces and this happened onlinefor most part as well as on the ground.
  24. 24. • In the year 2010, the momentum significantly changed by the emergingof ―Khaled Said’s‖ case in Alexandria where an average young man wasbeaten up in the middle of Egypt’s second largest city street.• It was truly different approach to political activism that was new to theEgyptians.• Khaled Said was an ordinary man from Middle class family.•He was subject to regular security practices of torture•His case was documented and advocated for within days•Actual/physical protests were organized in unique and creative way•It maintained the highest number of subscribers to a single Egyptianfacebook group.•It was a platform for different political mobilization since June 2010.•It was one of the key online tools that participated in organizing theEgyptian revolution*.
  25. 25. • ―The Facebook page set up around hisdeath offered Egyptians a rare forum tobond over their outrage aboutgovernment abuses‖Jennifer Preston New York Times
  26. 26. •The continuation of protests in different days in the style ofsilent standing –mainly- young people by the cornice inAlexandria (as an example) facing the sea, dressed in black,reading something, five meters apart from the next protestorand holding no political statement or act was a very strong wayto show the power of well organized peaceful protests.
  27. 27. •Youtube was another key tool in the process where peopleorganized different standing protest around the world, wherefamilies, students, faculty, workers stood in solidarity withKhaled Said.•People from around the world captured those protests andposted them as videos on youtube.• These videos were shared on ―Khaled Said‖ page on facebookand were a strong tool of solidarity.•These small and medium size protests (sometimes they wereonly one person) of people holding a sign saying ―we are allKhaled Said‖ were shared widely on facebook and on emailcreating more momentum and enthusiasm among activists.
  28. 28. •Such communities and groups’ activism base was built on thelegacy and efforts done by the different opposition movementsto the authoritarian regime of Mubarak that started with―Kefaya‖ movement, syndicates demonstrations, and workersprotests.
  29. 29.  The Arab Spring is a revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests occurring in the Arab world that began on December 18, 2010 They have protested in Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, and Oman, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Western Sahara
  30. 30.  The Arab Spring is known by many names here are some of them: - The Arab Spring and Winter - Arab Awakening -Arab Uprising
  31. 31.  Not all participants are Arab First protest was held in Tunisia on December 18, 2010, which ultimately led to the ouster of Ben Ali. As of November 2011 Three governments have been over thrown
  32. 32.  Dictatorship  Education Factors Absolute monarchy  Famine Human rights violations Government corruption economic decline unemployment extreme poverty
  33. 33.  These are some of the actions that take place after the protests: Living standards Literacy rates Increased availability of higher education Human development index Better understanding between government and the people
  34. 34.  It is unknown as to who was the person who started the Arab Spring ◦ However, Al-Najma Zidjaly, a professor of Oman thinks that a large contribution is made by the new ―Internet-savvy youth‖ young people that want to see a change in their countries in the forms of more opportunities for education as well as a change in the overall state of conditions. He refers to this as youth quake.
  35. 35.  The key countries affected by the spread of protests include Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Yemen. Overall the use of the social media helped aid in the spread of the news of the protests as well as ways to inspire others from all over the world to join in virtually through the media if they were unable to in real life.
  36. 36.  Government had a low tolerance level for the protesters in Tunisia. Sites like Twitter and Facebook helped support and organize these protests. The younger generation are more internet literate and for that alone, they have the upper hand.
  37. 37.  The Tunisian government has done whatever they could to block these sites to the public. The government blocks sites through the use of malicious malware to steal private usernames and passwords of the users of these sites. The protesters have been quick to mock the governments efforts to stifle them -- with slogans like "Free From 404" [internet language for file not found]
  38. 38.  The use of social media in Egypt, greatly aided in the acceleration of the protests before they were blocked. If it wasn’t for the social media, a lot less would be aware of the events going on or have enough courage to participate.
  39. 39.  The narrative of a situation has a great effect on inspiring our thoughts and decisions. For example there were instances of making the protesters seem horrible, so that the police have an excuse to clamp down on them. a New York-based Egyptian blogger interviewed by CNN, suggested as much. She ―appealed to the media to not fall for what she described as a Mubarak regime plot to make the protests in Egypt seem like dangerous anarchy.‖ The narrative was reset. Soon thereafter, CNN changed its on-screen headlines from ―CHAOS IN EGYPT‖ to ―UPRISING IN EGYPT.‖
  40. 40.  In Libya, Al-Jamahiriya, the Libyan state- owned television channel, was broadcasting nonstop patriotic songs, poetry recitations and rowdy rallies supporting Libyan leader, Col. El-Gaddafi. However, despite Gaddafi’s attempts to influence the public opinion to support his rule, his powers only went downhill as he lost control of Tripoli.
  41. 41.  During the Battle of Tripoli, Gaddafi continued to broadcast through the radio to help inspire his supporters to crush the rebels. With the help of airstrikes by both the US and the French, Gaddafi was eventually tracked down in his hometown of Sirte. Videos and pictures of Gaddafi’s capture and death showed grim and what seemed of him being shot multiple times and abused up till his death.
  42. 42.  Syrian government has been doing what they could to crack down on the use of social media Supporters of President Bashar al-Assad, calling themselves the Syrian Electronic Army. In contrast to the Mubarak government in Egypt, which tried to quash dissent by shutting down the country’s entire Internet, the Syrian government is taking a more strategic approach, turning off electricity and telephone service in neighborhoods with the most unrest, activists say.
  43. 43.  ―They are using these tactics to cut off communication for the people,‖ said Dr. Radwan Ziadeh director of the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies. This instance has shown how the use of social media hasn’t only helped spread and organize these protests, but it has also helped government monitor activities and stop them in their path. It brings about risks to its dissidents as well.
  44. 44.  Leader Saleh has brought a lot of corruption to Yemen With the lack of democratic reform and the abuse of human rights. The protests became so chaotic, it led to an attempted assasination where Saleh was injured by the shrapnel resulting from an RPG attack.
  45. 45.  When Saleh returned to his place, many were angered. The news of his return spread through social media like wild fire. Due to the increased turmoil and increase in violence, Saleh said on October 8, 2011, in comments broadcast on Yemeni state television, that he would step down "in the coming days". The opposition expressed skepticism, however, and a government minister said Saleh meant that he would leave power under the framework of a Gulf Cooperation Council initiative to transition toward democracy.