Social media revolutionaries in the Mideast

Social media is the sine qua non of Occupy in Western countries. And it’s also being used throughout the world in oppressed societies, most notably during the Arab Spring of 2011. Then and today, just what is the impact of the new Internet technologies in Mideast revolts?

Social Capital Blog gives us some background:

The “Arab Spring” in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere in the Mid-East heavily relied on the Internet, social media and technologies like Twitter, TwitPic, Facebook and YouTube in the early stages to accelerate social protest. There are even allegations that the CIA was blindsided about the Egypt uprising by failing to follow developments on Twitter.

There is less evidence that social media played a strong a role in places like Yemen (where Internet penetration is low) or Libya (where the government controlled Internet means of distribution and cracked down more effectively).

In Syria, where the “Arab Fall” is still underway and the fighting has intensified and spread to Damascus’ suburbs, the role of social media has also been more limited, out of fear that the government is monitoring online behavior and because the government learned from Egypt and Tunisia and cracked down heavily on social media.

This hasn’t prevented the Syrian opposition’s facility with new media:

The protest movement has also been adept at using social media – Facebook hosts pages like Syria Monitor, Syrian Letters, and Twitter Users for Syria help spread information and firsthand testimony. The twitter hashtags #Syria and #Assad also serve as clearinghouses, linking to Facebook pages and blogs like the Revolting Syrian.

In an interview with We Act Radio in Washington, DC, AJ Kurabi said that so many educated kids are using Twitter and Facebook, but he noted its limitations. With technologies like livestream the atrocities of Bashar al-Assad are exposed,”but he keeps on getting away with it,” he said.

Blogging has been another outlet for individuals in repressive countries, often providing textured viewpoints unavailable by other means. Chapati Mystery is a blog by Dr. Manan Ahmed in Pakistan:

I believe that there is an ethical way in which we have to engage with the world we live in, and as ethics includes a commitment to seeking truth and explanation of various fundamental issues, we have to fulfill that responsibility whether I was a grad student, whether I had a tenure or not, that would not stop me from being an ethical citizen.

Occupy SMS: The Revolution will be texted

URGENT: Hundreds of police mobilizing around Zuccotti. Eviction in progress!

More than 4,000 people received that text message at 9:56pm on November 14, 2011. All of them had signed up for Occupy Wall Street alerts by texting @occupyalert to 23559. Coordinated through Text Occupy, Occupy groups have created “cells” on the mass-text social network called Celly.

SMS, or Short Message Service, is being used around the world to mobilize, coordinate and alert in creative ways. It’s a natural tool for the Occupy movement.

Text messages have some security vulnerabilities. For protestors concerned about concealing their identity and location, there is another option.

Vibe Messaging is a smartphone app for anonymous broadcast messaging. It’s been used by OWS too, but like a lot of social media, that wasn’t its original intention. describes Vibe as “a new mobile app for communicating with people around you without necessarily knowing them. They can be coworkers at work, schoolmates on campus, folks in the park, or residents in your building.” When they wrote “folks in the park,” they probably didn’t have your fellow campers in Zucotti Park in mind. But it does suggest using it to spark the spontaneous flash mob.

You choose a range and duration for your anonymous broadcast. There are five settings for distance and five settings for length of time before, poof, it disappears.


Related links

Read It Later

I think I’m in love. With an app.

I’m a compulsive clicker. On the Net every day there are a thousand articles to read and videos to watch and cool stuff to keep up with. Half the time I say, “I’ll read it later.”

Some clever app developer knows my type. He or she made “Read It Later.” I’ve already downloaded it on my Mac, iPad and Android phone, and it’s uncluttered the I-won’t-confess-how-many tabs I had open in my browser. Let’s hope it works as well as advertised, because it just looks perfect for my Internet hoarding habits.

You can use it on your web browser, iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle Fire, or Blackberry. You can save content to your queue from your browser or from over 250 apps. Here’s the really fun part: in Click to Save mode, you can zip through your news aggregator, RSS reader, or Twitter timeline, adding links to your queue without actually clicking through and loading it. Your devices will sync up, and you can even download pages to read when you’re offline.

So far, so good. If you’re using it, please share your experience.

Occupiers interface on OCCUPII

For those tuned into the mainstream media, the Occupy Movement equals the Occupy camps, and most of all mothership Occupy Wall Street, formerly of Zucotti Park, Manhattan. What these poor MSNBC- and CNN-watchers are deprived of is the teeming world of Occupy on the Internet. Social media is the nutrient base of the movement. Gen-Xers and Boomers who have proudly mastered their Facebook timelines might be caught off-guard by the onslaught of innovation. You mean there’s more? Oh yes, there’s so, so much more.

What seems to be the most comprehensive and promising platforms of social networking just debuted, and it’s specifically designed for Occupy–called OCCUPII. Like Facebook, it provides a profile page which you update with your posts, pics and videos, plus a whole host of ways Occupiers can interface: groups, forums, chat, uStream and Livestream channels, BlogRadio, videos, events, photos, and a space for sharing ideas. You can easily start your own blog. Every Thursday there is a “Global RoundTable.”

We’ll see if English-speaking activists worldwide coalesce on the new alternative to Facebook. It’s hard to say now whether it’s a good tool for organizing and activism, or simply a forum for connection and conversation.