Social media, cellphone video fuel Arab protests

Social media, cellphone cameras, satellite television, restive youth and years of pent-up anger are proving to be a toxic mix for authoritarian regimes in the Middle East.

In clip after clip of footage from the street protests that have been sweeping the region, demonstrators - mostly young men - can be seen among the crowds holding mobile phone cameras aloft to document the scenes.

The shaky footage of peaceful protests - and images of horrific carnage - have been uploaded to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and other sites and aired on pan-Arab satellite television stations like Al-Jazeera.

Google-owned YouTube has been highlighting amateur footage from the unrest - such as clips from Libya from a user who goes by the name "enoughgaddafi" - at its news and politics channel, CitizenTube.

In Bahrain and Libya, graphic pictures and raw video of harsh crackdowns by the security forces on crowds of protesters earned international condemnation for their governments and further fueled popular anger in the streets.

Micah Sifry, co-founder of politics and technology blog techPresident noted in a recent blog post that mobile phone coverage in the Middle East is far higher than Internet penetration.

"The biggest factor in the unfolding events, to me, appears to be the emergent power of young people, compounded by how urbanized they are and how connected they are by mobile phones," Sifry said.

"Could it be that what we're witnessing is the political coming of age of Generation TXT?"

The extent to which social media contributed to the toppling of the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia - and protests of varying size and intensity in Algeria, Bahrain, Iran, Jordan, Libya, Morocco and Yemen - is a matter of debate.

But Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and Libya's Moamer Kadhafi took the threats posed by the Internet seriously enough, apparently, when they took the extraordinary step of attempting to cut their own people off the Web.

Wael Ghonim, the Google executive and cyber activist who emerged as a leader of the anti-government protests in Egypt, said social media played a crucial role in the events that led to Mubarak's ouster after three decades of iron-fisted rule.

"Without Facebook, without Twitter, without Google, without You Tube, this would have never happened," Ghonim told CBS television's "60 Minutes."

"If there was no social networks it would have never been sparked," said Ghonim, who started the Facebook page "We Are All Khaled Said" credited with helping mobilize the demonstrators in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

Alec Ross, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's senior adviser for innovation, said social media played an "important role" in the events in Egypt and Tunisia but "technology did not create the dissent movements there."

"It did not make the dissent movements successful - people did," Ross told AFP. "They were not Facebook revolutions or Twitter revolutions."

"Technology served as an accelerant," he said. "A movement that historically would have taken months or years was compressed into far shorter time cycles."

In Egypt, social media helped bring together people from diverse social, political and economic circles and merged them into a united force, Ross said.

"Having connected online they were more likely to come together offline," said Ross, a leader of the State Department's social media efforts.

Ross said the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia were notable for their lack of recognizable leaders, and networked communications helped make this possible.

"The Che Guevara of the 21st century is the network," he said. "It no longer takes a single charismatic revolutionary figure to inspire and organize the masses.

"Rather, in the digital age, leadership can be far more distributed and that's something that we clearly saw in Tunisia and Egypt," he said.

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

    £45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

    Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

    £60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

    Java Developer - 1 year contract

    £350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

    Junior Analyst - Graduate - 6 Month fixed term contract

    £17000 - £20000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

    Day In a Page

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone