Syria, which is engaged in a citizen revolt, has been cut off from the Internet according to several reports. This tactic isn’t all that difficult implement and is becoming more common, making the need for new open source technologies for wireless communications necessary.
In a discussion about his use of Twitter as a reporting tool, NPR strategist Andy Carvin made some interesting points about the value of crowdsourced journalism — including the importance of being transparent about the process, and the virtues of being human.
Egyptian-born journalist Mona El Tahawy’s use of Twitter to criticize her country’s government may have made her a target for kidnapping and torture, but it also helped her friends assemble a network of supporters and a Twitter campaign that eventually freed her from her captors.
As experts have studied the “Arab Spring” revolutions that took place in Tunisia and Egypt, it has become increasingly clear that while social-media tools such as Facebook and Twitter may not have caused these events, they played a crucial role in how they occurred.
Author and social-media critic Malcolm Gladwell has argued that Twitter and Facebook haven’t played any kind of important role in “real world” revolutions like those seen recently in Egypt and Tunisia. But sociologist Zeynep Tufekci makes a strong case for why Gladwell is wrong.
From this weekend’s news over Libya’s intermittent access to the web to last week’s drama over San Francisco’s public transportation agency shutting down wireless access during a protest, knowing where the web is at its weakest can help citizens agitate for change or protect their rights.
After the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, many wondered whether author Malcolm Gladwell would alter his skeptical stance on social media — but he made it clear in a CNN interview that he still doesn’t think tools like Twitter or Facebook make much of a difference.
One of Facebook’s strengths is that you always know who you are connecting with, because the social network requires real names — but that same policy allows governments in countries like Egypt to track down dissidents. Facebook says it has no plans to change its policy.
Author Malcolm Gladwell, who wrote a critical piece in the New Yorker about the role of social media in activism, has weighed in with his thoughts on the current situation in Egypt. But he continues to miss the real point about the use of these tools.
With a complete shut-down of Internet access in Egypt, the next drastic step would be the closure of voice communication networks. But researchers in Australia have demonstrated the use of mesh networks on smartphones, which enable voice calls in areas without a working cellular infrastructure.
As it was during the recent uprisings in Tunisia, the role of social media in Egypt has been the subject of some debate. In the end, it’s not about whether to give credit to Twitter or Facebook: it’s about the power of real-time networked communication.
Egypt’s astonishing decision to shut down communications with the outside world — blocking the Internet for millions of people — might look like a wild reaction by an under-pressure government. But evidence suggests it’s a well-planned and meticulously worked attempt to suppress communication.