SAN FRANCISCO – Since its inception in July of 2006, the online social networking service, Twitter, has grown from its humble beginnings in San Francisco to the communications lifesblood of war-torn nations around the world. Boasting well over 500 million registered users as of 2012, Twitter has given new meaning to blogging and social networking. Constrained by the 140-character limit, however, the user must convey their message as concisely as possible, for pleasure or for revolution.
For Westerners, Twitter is used to document the nuances of daily life. Fans can connect with their favorite entertainment folk, companies utilize its mass dissemination potential to advertise products and services, politicians use it to connect with their respective constituency, and so on.
The nature of twitter, however, lends far more utility. Being a free service over the World Wide Web, anyone with Internet can access it, create an account, and nobody can halt what is posted. Simply put, anyone can disseminate information in real time.
For the Arab world, Twitter has become a weapon of the public. Sam Gustin, resident tech writer for Wired Magazine, wrote, “If three decades of violent repression and despotic rule were kindling for the Egyptian Revolution, social media was both a spark and accelerant for the movement.” Beginning with the self-immolation of a Tunisian fruit vendor, tweets and Facebook posts spread like wildfire, culminating in the massive protests in Tahrir Square, Egypt, and ultimately, the ousting of long time President, Hosni Mubarak.
Through Twitter posts, Egyptian revolutionaries were given the ability to organize on a grand scale and enable the mass dissemination of anti-regime rhetoric. According to Sascha Meinrath, director of the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative, “Social Media have become the pamphlets of the 21st century, a way that people who are frustrated with the status quo can organize themselves and coordinate protest, and in the case of Egypt, revolution.”
While the mainstream media was figuring out how to shape the narrative of the Egyptian Revolution, the Twitterverse allowed oversees observers a front row seat. On one hand, it garnered overseas support, enough, in fact, to draw the support of Barack Obama. More importantly, however, it gave tacit support to similarly oppressed would-be revolutionaries in the surrounding countries.
While the tool of Twitter and other forms of social media are a nascent technology, their potential is overwhelming. While it is unclear how social media will serve us in the future, it is clear that it is not going anywhere.
– Thomas van der List
Source: Foreign Policy Policy Mic