The Arab Spring: Youth, freedom and the tools of technology
The following excerpt was taken from Al-Arabiya News. To read more, click here.
Wielding mobile phones and computers, the young activists across the Middle East have altered the way the world approaches popular mobilization, social networks and Internet freedom. The Internet can be a transformational force for societies and individuals, allowing for organization on a mass scale and the free flow of information. However, we must remember that the Internet and social media are tools that do not bring change themselves, but act as facilitators in spreading the ideas. The seminal use of social media as vehicles for change in the Arab Spring uprisings exemplifies the power of web-based communication and makes a strong case for Internet freedom.
Web-based communications have been used by young, tech literate activists across the Middle East for three core purposes: organization, exposure and leverage. Youth led efforts to organize social and political movements, expose the injustices of governments and leverage internal and external stakeholders acted as catalysts for uprisings which would have otherwise remained dormant.
Social networks allow for communication across geopolitical, cultural and linguistic barriers. This tool allowed the youth leaders of Egypt, the West Bank, Jordan, etc. to organize in revolutionary new ways by creating online communities of supporters and using those networks to bring people into the streets and rally international support for their cause. As mobile devices and smart phones become increasingly common, protesters are able to gather at a moment’s notice. This level of organization is made possible by near instant communication and a network of vigilant, tech literate devotees. Additionally, groups are able to develop, collaborate on and distribute content to a seemingly limitless audience. The ability of young activists to organize using technology has brought the nature of citizen action to a new level and given voice to previously unheard narratives.
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