While the role of the Internet and social media in the Tahir Square Protests is a subject of controversy, the evidence provided by Tufekci and Wilson (2012) indicates that Egyptian use of social media greatly affected the success of the protests.  Social media was largely responsible for the success of the Tahir Sqaure Protests and thus for the consequent downfall of the Mubarak regime in two ways.  Not only did social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter serve as platforms for informing Egyptian citizens about the protests, but they also made it difficult for the authoritative regime to suppress the dissemination of information regarding the protests: a combination that guaranteed the uprising’s success.

            The presence of social media in Egypt provided citizens with a new channel for receiving news and information and for discussing political events that had never before been topics of discussion across such vast social networks (Tufekci & Wilson, p. 4).  Tufekci and Wilson’s survey results demonstrate that social media use provided Egyptian citizens with the necessary information and social support needed to push them to participate in the political protests at Tahir Square (2012, p. 14).  The use of social media led to increased citizen participation in Tahir Square’s first day of protests, which proved crucial to the uprising’s success and to the downfall of the authoritative regime (Tufekci & Wilson, 2012, p. 13).  The regime’s inability to suppress the active documentation of the protests via sites such as Facebook and Twitter only further spurred participation in the protests and contributed to the uprising’s success.

            I am very skeptical of Lisa Anderson’s denial of all of the above.  She claims that the dissemination of information about the protests that proved necessary to spur Egyptian citizens’ political participation was not a result of social media and the Internet.  Rather, Anderson relies on the influence of Egypt’s urbane and cosmopolitan youth, along with that of its army, on Egyptian society to participate in the Tahir Square Protests (2011, p. 2).  According to Anderson, it was not social media that ensured the success of the protests and thus of the downfall of the Mubarak regime, but rather Egypt’s culture of “deep communal bonds and trust” that guaranteed the uprisings’ success (2011, p. 6).  I, however, find it nearly impossible to dismiss the role of social media in the success of the uprising and the consequent downfall of Egypt’s authoritative regime, especially given the evidence provided by Tufekci and Wilson.

            Do you think that Anderson’s argument is a convincing one?  Is it possible to completely deny any role of social media in the success of the Tahir Sqaure Protests and the resulting downfall of the Mubarak regime?

Aside | This entry was posted in Winter 2012. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to

  1. gkornblau says:

    I don’t think that the impact of social media on the Tahir Square protests is a question, and I have no doubt that these protests wouldn’t have been the same without the influence of social media. Even if one were to argue that people didn’t rely on social media and the Internet to connect and share information, a major cause of the protest was the government’s initial restriction of Internet access. As a result of such efforts, citizens took to the streets and thus the protest began. The assertion that social media and the Internet was the primary support system for protestors throughout the revolution is questionable. However, the Internet clearly played a large role in the cause of the protests. It is evident that social media was an extremely important entity to citizens in Egypt, and the Tahir Square protests would not have been the same without it.

  2. cjduvall says:

    I completely agree with you in that I did not agree with Andersen’s article. She is way too quick to dismiss social media as a key influential factor. While I am not extremely familiar with Egypt’s culture of “deep communal bonds and trust” that you mentioned, I don’t think the protests would have evolved in the same manner without social media. The internet and social media as such integral factors in organizing movements. I understand that other factors may definitely influence uprisings in different areas around the world, Andersen is far too quick with her dismissal. As you explained in your post, the findings by Tufekci and Wilson clearly show that Andersen is not entirely correct.

  3. John D'Adamo says:

    I feel like social media played a part, but isn’t the whole story. There was a combination of social media and also internal workings of the military, government, and the other actors involved. It seems to come down to whose side the military is on. When the military is well funded and mostly sticks with the government, revolution is difficult (failed in Iran, civil war in Libya) but when the military stays neutral, in Egypt for example, revolution is easier. It’s more complicated than that, but the loyalties of generals and the military play a key role.

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