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Are Social Media Driving the Arab Spring?

| June 20, 2011


A first major report on the use of social media in by Arab Spring protesters has been released by the Dubai School of Government. It is now clearer than ever that social network usage trends and impacts are growing across the MENA.


To examine the role of social media in the Arab Spring, we also interview Sarah Abdurrahman, Sonia Verma, Brian Stewart and Jillian York – all participants in the Munk School’s panel discussion, Tweeting The Arab Revolution.  And Ben Rowswell introduces a lecture on the use of technology in the promotion of democracy.

Sarah Abdurrahman, Sonia Verma, Brian Stewart and Jillian York discuss Twitter and the Arab Spring:


Ben Rowswell on technology’s use for democracy promotion and the future of diplomacy:

After demonstrating the dramatic impact that social media can have on political change, Egyptians have turned their country into a laboratory of political innovation.  As they experiment with combinations of online and traditional tools to mobilize citizens, they are turning the notion of democracy promotion on its head:  instead of the West teaching the rest about democracy, Egyptians are now the ones doing the teaching.

Over the past several months, I have led an initiative called Cloud to Street, which seeks to capture these lessons and equip Egyptian activists with tools to extend their reach beyond the internet.  We argue that the international community can best support the democratic transition in Egypt by setting aside Western-centric models and embrace an “open-source” approach to democracy promotion.  Below is lecture that I recently gave on technology and the Egyptian revolution for the Canadian Political Science Association.


Photo courtesy of Reuters.

  • Webconomist

    It was also interesting that when the government turned off Internet access is when people went into the streets to see what was happening and the “revolution” took on its next phase…and that the event began not with regime change in mind, but a simple protest.

    As we continue our research in this area, sometimes social media is given too much credit. We should be cautious in our expectations of results. Dictatorships can leverage these tools, and are beginning to, just as well.