The rise of global networks and communication technology has essentially given every person a medium through which they can voice their ideas and opinions. Social media and networking play an integral role in our interconnected, global society but also these means of interaction have proven invaluable and powerful to those suffering under the rule of oppressive regimes. In order to truly understand the power social media has in combating tyrannical governments or corrupted officials, let’s examine the role of the Internet during the Arab Spring.
Described as a conceptual revolution, the Arab Spring is the term used to describe a series of mass protests that took place throughout various countries in the Middle East. The protesters, made up of the working class and oppressed, took to the streets to list their grievances with their respective regimes. However, before their march on the streets took place, a revolution had already begun online; multiple Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, forums and blogs called for organized action, some years before the events of the Arab Spring. Some governments were quick to single out and eliminate some Internet users who had posted seditious material while others practiced more ruthless tactics, such as Libya severing its communication network and going “dark.” These tactics proved overall ineffectual in both limiting bad press and quelling the protests, as the peoples’ messages had already been sent and civilian blogging proved a viable medium in informing the world on protesting events and government action.
The Arab Spring would eventually lead to multiple civil wars and the ousting of several notorious state officials and leaders, such as those in Libya, Yemen, Egypt and Tunisia. Some countries are still in the midst of the fray; Syria is currently in the second year of an increasingly tumultuous civil war with constant coverage of the events coming from the civilian-led, opposition forces. Support for the civilians in those countries has been near-unanimous, with several countries even publicly declaring and recognizing some rebel groups.