What a crazy world we live in! I know we are having problems in Ireland with our economy etc. but spare a thought for those unfortunate enough to live under a dictatorship. Regulations, imprisonment and restrictions on freedom of speech are just some of the daily obstacles one would have to avoid living under a dictatorship. Our challenges seem miniscule in comparison to the struggles of many across the world.
Last week one of North Africa’s dictators, Ben Ali, was deposed by a people’s revolution in Tunisia. In the end it was an increase in the price of bread that stirred the masses to revolt. Many of the protesters organised and communicated through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. This is an interesting pattern that I have noticed across many countries where freedom of speech is restricted. Communicating through social media platforms is quick, easy and widely used, making it a popular choice of communication for protesters.
Tunisia has 3.6 million internet users. This accounts for a third of the population making it one of the highest penetration rates in African. Many protesters organised and communicated through Facebook and Twitter. This helped form the number at crowds seen during the demonstrations. The government tried to stop social media protesters by arresting bloggers and web activists.
During the student demonstration, the protesters organised and communicated through Facebook and Twitter. The authorities eventually blocked both for the duration of the protests.
The President of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, has been watching the Tunisian revolution nervously. The last few days has seen riots across Egypt as the people’s tolerance towards the status quo reaches breaking point. The authorities have now blocked Facebook and Twitter in an attempt to limit communications and the spread of dissent.
Blogging is becoming an increasingly important part of public dissent in China. Bloggers have been imprisoned and tortured for their outspoken blogs about the Chinese government. Most recently a satirical video has been circulated around Chinese social networking sites to mark the year of the rabbit. The video depicts rabbits going on a rampage and attacking their leaders. “The year of the rabbit has come. Even rabbits bite when they are pushed.”
With the increased use of social media to communicate and organise comes the risk that governments will block these platforms during times of unrest. Blocking sites like Facebook and Twitter is a sign that governments feel threatened by the power of social media for communication and as a tool for social revolution.