February 28, 2011
No-one could have anticipated the avalanche of protestation we have seen in the Middle East and North Africa since the new year, which has been aptly dubbed The Arab Spring
Ben Ali and Mubarak have been ousted from their positions of power in response to prevalent protests which were organized, co-ordinated and shared via the use of social media platforms, predominately Facebook & Twitter.
The most effective weapon in the protesters’ arsenal was the smart phone, which allowed demonstrators to capture and record the transpiring events and publish them on their various networks for the entire world to see.
The popularity of social media has effectively destroyed any notion of censorship (a fact that Gaddafi struggles to come to terms with). In this sense, social media can be regarded as a force for democracy as it has empowered the people of North Africa to receive, consume and broadcast their discrepancies directly, as well as organise and mobilize demonstrations and protests without state intervention and propaganda.
I for one find it exhilarating; yet alarming that social media has the potential to topple governments. Wikileaks savvy decision to publish cables involving Egypt & Tunisia during the protests has had influence over the outcomes as well, although the world has seen firsthand how social media can sway the future of a nation.
Revolution does not require a smart phone – the European Revolutions of 1848 needed no such technology to overthrow their regimes. However there is undeniably an inherent pro-democracy nature of social media, and dictators and despots across the globe fear its power.