Arab Spring Tweeting
First of all, before we can even talk about Twitter and Arab Spring, we need to make sure we all understand what Arab Spring actually is. If you’re like me, before recently you hadn’t even heard the term “Arab Spring” and just had a picture of Paul Anka on a Pogo stick. Simply, Arab Spring is a revolution going on in much of the Arab world in which thousands of people are calling for economic and political change. The issues they’re fighting against include dictatorship, human rights violations, government corruption, unemployment, poverty, and threats to food security as the price of food increases and, in turn, global hunger worsens.
This social revolution began in Tunisia where violent street protests eventually led to the longtime “president,” President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, fleeing the country after leading for 23 years. Afterwards, an emergency governmental group of Ben Ali supporters took over the president’s role. The public was sure to show their disapproval with more protests until these supporters resigned, allowing Beji Caid el Sebsi, a highly respected politician, to take charge until a formal election was held.
Social media played a huge part in making is revolution take fire as well as helping the rest of the world understand what was happening from the people’s point of view. For example, Andy Carvin, NPR’s senior product manager for online communities, used twitter extensively to follow two Tunisian friends of his to get updates on the conflict. He got involved by retweeting these messages, sharing the information he received from the American news media with his friends, and eventually getting feedback from his throngs of followers from the Arab communities who would verify or clarify what he was learning in the news.
After the Tunisian’s had run the president out of the country, one of his friends tweeted “Okay Arab world, you’ve seen how we do it in Tunisia. Tag, you’re it!” Presumably, many Arabs saw what had happened on social media, and activists decided to give it a try in their own country. Many activists report that they had used Facebook and Twitter to organize protests and demonstrations in their respective countries and that the governmental shut down of Facebook made it much more difficult to organize protests.
There are countries other than Tunisia that have joined in on the action and have begun protesting their respective governments. Egypt, Yemen, and Libya all began their protests in the winter of 2011 and have successfully overthrown their government systems. Syria has found itself in a period of civil war and has had the highest death toll of any country in the Arab Spring with over 40,000 deaths. Other areas fighting for their rights include Morocco, Mali, Mauritania, Sudan, Algeria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon, West Bank, Oman, Kuwait, and Bahrain.
Some places to find updated news or information on Arab Spring:
This Ted Talk
Follow @acarvin on twitter
This facebook page, it’s a closed group, but it has such a wide collection of stories and information, it’s worth it to make a request to be in it.