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Social media and the Arab Spring
Since the Arab Spring commenced lively debate has ensued about the part played by social media in igniting the first flash of revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and beyond. Contending theories suggest either that the effect was overstated or that new media and social networking sites were among the critical fulminates. The truth perhaps lies somewhere in between, and this article attempts to provide further perspective.
My overriding sense is that within the context of the 2011 revolutions, social media networks were essentially barometers, rather than catalysts. They certainly had an effect in terms of organisation, mobilisation and networking, but it hardly needs saying that mass movements of Arab people pre-date new media and technology. Neither the First Intifada in Palestine in 1987, nor the Shabaniya revolt in Iraqi in 1991 were motivated by blogs, Facebook or Twitter. In the Middle East, freedom isn’t a new idea.
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