The Arab Spring is a revolutionary movement in North Africa and the Middle East, which began in December 2010 with the Tunisian Revolution â€“ before spreading to other Arab countries, such as Egypt, Syria, and Libya, amongst others. While the Arab Spring was not predicted by political commentators and the media, in retrospect, there are a number of reasons with regard to why it occurred, such as longstanding oppressive regimes and difficult economic conditions.
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However, despite all of this, the catalyst for the Arab Spring came from a twenty-something fruit vendor in Tunisia who, frustrated and angry about the treatment he was receiving from local officials, set himself on fire in protest â€“ and subsequently died (Haas & Lesch, 2013). In years gone by, such an event might have been largely covered up by an autocratic regime that was able to control the mass media â€“ but nowadays, in the age of the Internet and social media, such a task is more difficult. Indeed, Adi (2014) has suggested that the use of social media platforms (such as Facebook and Twitter) did play an integral part in the Arab Spring uprisings â€“ but reiterates that social media was used as a tool to gather increasing support for the cause, rather than being the catalyst in itself. Therefore, this paper shall discuss the impact of social media during the Arab Spring, and try to ascertain the extent to which it facilitated the growth of the movement.
To begin with, Howard & Hussain (2013)state that: “Social protests in the Arab world have spread across North Africa and the Middle East, largely because digital media allowed communities to realize that they shared grievances and because they nurtured transportable strategies for mobilizing against directors” (p. 3). Moreover, Howard & Hussain (2013)go on to unequivocally state that the Internet, mobiles phones, and social networking have transformed politics in North Africa and the Middle East. Indeed, in light of the Arab Spring movement that began in late 2010, it would be difficult to argue against such a notion. Furthermore, Bebawi & Bossio (2014) also point out that the mass media has labelled the Arab Spring as a ‘social media revolution’, with citizen journalism and social media reporting helping to sustain the wave of protests in North Africa and the Middle East from 2010. Thus, there are two ways in which social media has been used during the Arab Spring, these being: (1) by helping to coordinate protests on a mass scale, and (2) by reporting on the events without any media bias. This then, is something that was also used to great effect during the 2011 riots in England, when social media was used to coordinate riots in various English cities (Briggs,
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