The Arab Spring has impacted multiple countries in northern Africa and the Arab world and so far since the end of December in 2010, leading to the fall of the government in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. Among the unarmed insurrections, social media and social networking technology functioned as a new strategy that empowered the protesters to gain successful uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt and inspired grassroots movements in other Arab countries.
The new media, namely Twitter, Facebook and Youtube, with online blogs and mobile telecommunications, played a significant role as the politics of connectivity, which connect, coordinate and communicate the protestors. Labeled as “Twitter Revolution” or “Facebook Revolution”, the new media to some extent engaged in the Arab Spring uprisings.
Through analyzing more than three million tweets on Twitter, content on YouTube and thousands of blog posts, a study led by analysts from University of Washington finds that social media played a critical role in shaping political debates in the movements during the Arab Spring and it inspired protestors through the Internet platform and spread democratic ideas and demands across the national borders.
Taking the use of social media in the unarmed insurrections in Tunisia and Egypt as cases to study, this essay aims to analysis whether the social media was the driving force that led to the movements during the Arab Spring since 2011.
Different from the prior movements and uprisings that were organised and directed by a chief leader, the insurrections in Arab Spring was structurally changed that started by a mass of the online connected young people. The Internet and social media first empowered the young people to stimulate the uprisings, which became the core of the first anti-government protesters that later led to a larger-scale and more intensive campaign.
In the initial stage, social media directly motivated, led and mobilised the public. Despite that the Tunisia state-issued report narrated the protests resulted form the self-immolation of a college-educated street vendor’s as an isolated incident, large amount of information and videos were uploaded by people to the Internet to reveal the opposite facts. The online protests began spreading nationwide and led to more people’s participation in the street protest. Similarly, people expressed their condolence to the protestor Khaled Mohamed Saeed through the social media and the protest supporter surged to one million within several days, which formed the Internet protest platform in Egypt.
There would not be that large amount of people joining in the street protests and demonstrations without the direct motivation and mobilisation by Twitter and Facebook. Pushing forward by the Internet and social media, people sharing the same demand came together and people who rarely concerned about politics were also inspired and motivated by online protests or participated in other off-line protesting activities....