The social media revolution 2.0 has just begun. Tunisia’s Twitter revolt sparked Egypt’s social media revolution that successfully ousted its leader of 30 years. Is Algeria the next ground zero in the people’s uprising to transform their nation?
Fearing that Facebook and Twitter could help topple its government, Algeria took significant steps to cut off the Internet. But don’t these government officials know shutting of the Internet didn’t work in Egypt?
After completely cutting off its citizens from the social web and cell phone service, the uprisings only intensified and spread even more widely throughout the nation of 80 million people.
Although these social networks are responsible for ousting regimes, they solely weren’t the catalyst.
Social media made mobilizing the masses faster and easier. But it was the human voices peacefully calling out for change in the spirit of Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. that served as the stimulus for igniting the transformation.
For months, Google executive Wael Ghonim shared with his friends and family that the social web would change Egypt and the rest of the world. After all, he did meet his wife online.
When he arrived to his family’s home in Cairo for vacations, the abjuct poverty in Egypt would weigh on him.
His arrest days after the protests that began Jan. 15 only served to transform the thin-framed 30-year-old as a powerful symbol for the opposition.
The immediate crackdown also reminded Egyptians of the increasingly commonplace practice of their government to arrests citizens deemed as threats – mostly without a charge or even letting their loved ones know their whereabouts.
Ghonim, who was a prolific social media user, became Egytian President Hosani Mubarak’s public enemy No. 1 – a threat because he single-handedly flipped the switch for Egypt’s revolution by creating a Facebook page that drew more than 70,000 friends after a blogger in the costal city of Alexandria was beaten to death by police in a cyber café.
The murder of Khaled Said sparked outrage on the streets where 1,000 people gathered to demonstrate against the police brutality.
The Facebook page, “We are all Khaled Said,” coupled with tweets mobilized Egypt’s tech-savvy young generation into political action the world has yet to witness. Those protests began Jan. 15 and ended with jubilation Feb. 11 after Egypt’s vice president announced that Mubarak had finally stepped aside.
As the military takes control of the nation promising free and fair elections, what role will social media play in ensuring that a true civilian-led democracy takes root in the most-populous Arab nation? Will Egypt’s future leaders come from the young protesters and revolutionary organizers in Tahrir Square?
Egypt’s revolution has already had profound impacts in the Middle East. The mostly peaceful revolution led to Jordan’s king to disband its unpopular government. Syrians too have take to the streets. And the people of Yemen are mobilizing for change.
And with the volatile situation in Algeria, it will become the norm that all revolutions and uprisings will be fueled by social media – no matter the attempts to quash people’s voices for freedom.
It was the Iranian revolution, which began with Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, that highlighted the courage of the people to stand up against their totalitarian government.
My full realization of the full power of the social web was seeing graphic images via Twitter and YouTube of a young Iranian woman named Neda — Farsi for “the calling” or “the voice” — who was shot and killed by a police sniper.
I promised in the comfort of my computer room in Southern California as I witness that gripping scene of Neda grasping her last breath that her voice would never be silenced … in my heart, mind and actions to be a force for good.
Tomorrow’s revolution will begin on Twitter today.
Could it happen in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia or even Mexico? And how are the United States and other Western democracies being transformed by social media?