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.

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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.

occupii.org