Tunisia and Egypt uprisings – selected bookmarks
Further highlights added Fri 4 Feb 2011, 09:12 CET (added Garton Ash, 19 Jan, Bassets 3 Feb, Peterson 4 Feb, Rushkoff 5 Feb)
The protests that followed the suicide attempt of an unemployed youngster in Sidi Bouzid two weeks ago followed by the suicide of Houssine Ben Faleh Falhi, 25 and Lofti Guadri, 34, are now reaching the Tunisian big cities and the capital city, Tunis. The social movement is no longer only asking for work opportunities and prospects for their future but for a complete reform of the “Ben Ali system”, a president who’s been in power for 23 years.
Tunisian netizens are working around the clock to show the rest of the world the ongoing carnage in their country. What started as a protest against unemployment when a 26-year-old Tunisian man set himself on fire in Sidi Bouzid last month has ignited the country, sparking a wave of protests across it.
Despite the fact that protesters on the ground are facing a heavy-handed response from the authorities, and cyber-activists are facing the same dilemma, photographs, testimonies and videos showing the daily mayhem are appearing online.
Today’s news says that at least 20 people have been killed in both the city of Tala, 200km southwest of the capital Tunis, and in the Kasserine region – and the Twitterosphere is on fire.
Earlier today, I got the following appeal on the mico-blogging site.
By now, because of such incidents as the earthquake in Haiti, the recent revolution in Tunisia, and the shooting of congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona, most people are coming to grips with the fact that Twitter is effectively a real-time news network—like a version of CNN (TWX) powered by hundreds of thousands of users around the world. But what happens when that Twitter news network is spreading misinformation? That happened during the Giffords shooting, when the congresswoman was initially reported to be dead, and there are other more recent cases, as well: On Wednesday, for example, reports of a shooting in Oxford Circus in London, England, swept through the Twittersphere but turned out to be a mistake.
The riots in Hammamet, a town roughly equivalent to Tunisia’s East Hampton, were announced this morning on an Arabic Facebook page called “The People of Tunisia are setting themselves on fire, Mr. President.” The name is a reference to the Dec. 17 event that sparked the protests, the self-immolation of an college graduate who sold vegetables on the street of a small town in the provinces. And on Thursday morning the page called on patriotic Tunisians to prepare to shed their blood in protest in the town of Hammamet.
15 Jan 2011, Tunisia, Twitter, Aristotle, Social Media and Final and Efficient Causes | technosociology
Evgeny Morozov’s argument is that these tools are not the best suited for promoting democracy, especially in authoritarian regimes, because they also strengthen the surveillance, propaganda and censorship. As I argued in many places, however, they also strengthen capacity for political action through multiple means:
1- Social media lower barriers to collective action by providing channels of organization that are intermeshed with mundane social interaction and thus are harder to censor.
2- Social media can help create a public(ish) sphere in authoritarian regimes, thereby lowering the problem of society-level prisoner’s dilemma in which everyone knows that many people are unhappy but the extent to which this is the case remains hidden as official media is completely censored.
3- Social media helps strengthen communities as it is the antidote to isolating technologies (like suburbs and like televison) and community strength is key to political action.
4- Social media seems to have b…
Mobile phones, blogs, YouTube, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds have become instrumental in mediating the live coverage of protests and speeches, as well as police brutality in dispersing demonstrations.
The internet in this case has assumed the role of a very effective uncensored news agency from which every broadcaster and news corporation have been able to freely source newsfeeds, raw from the scene.
Such developments have proven very significant in changing the rules of the game, of journalism production and dissemination of information in a country where the government historically keeps tight control on the media and where almost no platform is available for opinions critical of the political elite.
“Nous sommes en guerre […] une guerre que les Anonymous sont en train de gagner.” Par des messages victorieux, le groupe d’internautes anonymes se félicite de la chute du président tunisien Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, estimant avoir joué un rôle prépondérant.
Les Anonymous promettent désormais de se mobiliser pour des causes similaires en Egypte, en Arabie saoudite, en Algérie, en Libye, en Syrie, en Jordanie, au Yémen et au Maroc. Des pays qui craignent une contagion de la révolte tunisie…
Anonymous zeigt sich selbstbewusst:
For better or for worse, we are at war. […]. As long as draconian regimes and oppressive authorities exist, the freedom of information, and in turn, your freedom to do as you wish on the internet, is threatened. However, this is a war that Anonymous is winning. […] Corporations and states continue to find themselves incapable of stemming the coming tide of social change brought about by the internet. Each and everyone of you are shaking the system to its core. Leaders are nervous and scared.
The Tunisian protests didn’t get the same breathless exposure that the mainstream media granted the Iran protests in 2009 — but Tunisia’s vocal youth did force a regime change and reopened the debate about the power of social media and its role in, and influence on, the mainstream media.
Online activism in Tunisia has a longer history that the flash in the pan attention it is now receiving would have you believe. In 2004, a Tunisian political activist who goes by the name of Astrubal remixed Apple’s 1984 ad with President Ben Ali featured as Big Brother. The video went viral across the country.
19 Jan 2011, Tunisia’s revolution isn’t a product of Twitter or WikiLeaks. But they do help | Timothy Garton Ash | The Guardian
His challenge is salutary but, like most revisionists, Morozov exaggerates in the opposite direction. Tunisia offers a timely corrective to his corrective. For it seems that here the internet did play a significant role in spreading news of the suicide which sparked the protests, and then in multiplying those protests. An estimated 18% of the Tunisian population is on Facebook, and the dictator neglected to block it in time.
Among the educated young who came out in force, we can be sure that the level of online (and mobile phone) participation was higher. The scholar Noureddine Miladi quotes an estimate that half the Tunisian television audience watches satellite TV, and he notes: “Al-Jazeera heavily relied on referencing Facebook pages and YouTube in reporting the raw events.” So professional satellite TV fed off online citizen journalism.
Moreover, these media leap frontiers.
Tuesday’s event had been co-ordinated on a Facebook page, where the organisers said they were taking a stand against torture, poverty, corruption and unemployment. We believe that the open exchange of information and views benefits societies and helps governments connect with their people”
They said that the rally would mark “the beginning of the end”. Our correspondent said that it had been unclear how many people would respond to the online call, but in the end, the turnout was more than the organisers could have hoped.
Police were taken aback by the anger of the crowd and let protesters make their way to Tahrir Square near the parliament building, he says. Opposition organisers urged a repeat demonstration on Wednesday, the AFP news agency reported. Microblogging site Twitter also played a key part, with supporters inside and outside Egypt using the search term #jan25 to post news of the day
Confirming what a few have reported this evening: in an action unprecedented in Internet history, the Egyptian government appears to have ordered service providers to shut down all international connections to the Internet. Critical European-Asian fiber-optic routes through Egypt appear to be unaffected for now. But every Egyptian provider, every business, bank, Internet cafe, website, school, embassy, and government office that relied on the big four Egyptian ISPs for their Internet connectivity is now cut off from the rest of the world. Link Egypt, Vodafone/Raya, Telecom Egypt, Etisalat Misr, and all their customers and partners are, for the moment, off the air.
At 22:34 UTC (00:34am local time), Renesys observed the virtually simultaneous withdrawal of all routes to Egyptian networks in the Internet’s global routing table. Approximately 3,500 individual BGP routes were withdrawn, leaving no valid paths by which the rest of the world could continue to exchange Inte…
27 Jan 2011, Egypt protest leaflets distributed in Cairo give blueprint for mass action | World news | The Guardian
Anonymous leaflets circulating in Cairo also provide practical and tactical advice for mass demonstrations, confronting riot police, and besieging and taking control of government offices. Signed “long live Egypt”, the slickly produced 26-page document calls on demonstrators to begin with peaceful protests, carrying roses but no banners, and march on official buildings while persuading policemen and soldiers to join their ranks. The leaflet ask recipients to redistribute it by email and photocopy, but not to use social media such as Facebook and Twitter, which are being monitored by the security forces.
11.14am: @gamelaid, a lawyer and executive director for the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, has tweeted that some army units in Suez are refusing to support the crackdown against the people.
Live blog: Twitter
The orginal tweet was in Arabic, so apologies for the translation if it is not 100% correct:
URGENT Suez: reports that some army units refused to support the police to confront the demonstrators, and the acceptance of other units, and did not intervene until now
Egyptian authorities have blocked internet and mobile services in a bid to quell anti-government protests, but the measures may have come a bit too late.
Activists spread the word online about Friday’s protests, detailing the list of public squares where people should gather. Calls for action circulated on Twitter and Facebook since early on Friday morning.
Twitter user rassdwda wrote: “#Egypt protests begin from mosques & churches, #Muslims #Christians 2gether#Jan25”.
Another user named eacusa tweeted: “#Jan25 #Egypt Good news, morale in Cairo still high, veteran activists from 60s & 70s r spreading knowledge of predigital ways 2 coordinate.”
Twitter has played an instrumental role in keeping the world abreast of the latest developments in Egypt, where demonstrations against the 30-year rule of president Hosni Mubarak have entered their fourth day.
The following widget shows Twitter content mentioning the hashtag #jan25 over the last three days, and are all related to terms mentioned in people’s Twitter messages:
Of course, the demonstrators have an offline networking tool: the mosques. Protests were scheduled all over Egypt for Friday in order to capitalize on the ability of the religious establishment to gather, organize, inspire and deploy large groups of people, with all the legitimacy that the mosques command. If the government continues the communications shutdown, it’s an open question whether the protesters can sustain their analog organizational momentum.
Egypt’s apparent move to shut off Internet has called for revisiting the so-called “dictator’s dilemma,” i.e. the idea that authoritarian governments cannot have their Internet cake and eat it, too. The dilemma was if they allow Internet to spread within the country, it then poses a threat to their regime. If they don’t, then they are cut off from the world, economically and socially.
Egipto se ha desconectado de internet y ha hecho difícil conocer qué ocurre en ese país. Sin embargo es interesante saber que al igual que las protestas en Irán, la articulación de las protestas sigue aún sin el uso de Twitter y Facebook y los SMS. La comunicación de boca en boca, los radioaficionados y la distribución de panfletos han sido muy efectivos para coordinar y organizar las protestas en el país africano. Y todo esto ha ocurrido porque los manifestantes ya lo tenían contemplados. Es un movimiento sumamente organizado.
El pasado 25 de enero, antes del bloqueo de loo ISP’s, anduvo circulando en las redes el Plan para el Día de la Furia. A través de este manual se prepararon las protestas en las callesque han ido escalando. En uno de los puntos del manual sugiere que se invite a la policía a unirse a las manifestaciones, cosa que ya está ocurrendo.
Just as it was during the recent uprisings in Tunisia, the role of social media in the recent upheaval in Egypt has been the subject of much debate since the unrest began on Thursday. Daily Show host Jon Stewart on Friday poked fun at the idea that Twitter might have played a key part in the demonstrations, and there are many observers who share his skepticism. The real trigger for the uprisings, they argue, is simply the frustration of the oppressed Egyptian people — which is undoubtedly true. But it also seems clear that social media has played a key role in getting the word out, and in helping organizers plan their protests. In the end, it’s not about Twitter or Facebook: it’s about the power of real-time networked communication.
Las masivas protestas que derrocaron al dictador tunecino Ben Ali muestran nuevamente el poder de los movimientos sociales espontáneos en un entorno de comunicación digital. El proceso, que en menos de un mes hundió un régimen sólidamente asentado desde 1987, ha seguido una pauta familiar: un hecho dramático desborda la indignación contenida por el temor, suscita manifestaciones que reprime la policía y de inmediato las imágenes de represión y los mensajes de protesta se difunden en las redes sociales de internet, amplificando el movimiento hasta que los medios de comunicación no controlados por el Gobierno –en este caso Al Yazira– informany retransmiten las imágenes ymensajes que cuelgan los manifestantes en YouTube y otras webs. Conforme se difunde la protesta, se activan las redes móviles, los SMS, los twitts y las páginas en Facebook y otras redes, hasta construir un sistema de comunicación y organización sin centro y sin líderes, que funciona con suma eficacia, desbordando censura
In Egypt this week, the Mubarak regime shut down Internet and cell phone communications before launching a violent crackdown against political protesters. Now, Free Press has discovered that an American company — Boeing-owned Narus of Sunnyvale, CA — has sold Egypt “Deep Packet Inspection” (DPI) equipment that can be used to help the regime track, target and crush political dissent over the Internet and mobile phones.
The power to control the Internet and the resulting harm to democracy are so disturbing that the threshold for using DPI must be very high. That’s why, before DPI becomes more widely used around the world and at home, the U.S. government must establish clear and legitimate criteria for preventing the use of such surveillance and control technology.
Free Press is calling for Congress to investigate the use and sale of DPI technology by American companies. Add your name to our letter now.
So why does the image of a revolution enabled by social media continue to grab headlines and spark the interest of Western audiences, and what are the dangers of employing such imagery? My fear is that the hype about a Twitter/Facebook/YouTube revolution performs two functions: first, it depoliticizes our understanding of the conflicts, and second, it whitewashes the role of capitalism in suppressing democracy.
Instead of turning to mainstream news media and arrogant academics (myself prominently included) to offer meaningful categories within which to place the messy and complex experiences of struggling human beings, one thing the new visibility (a concept coined by John Thompson) of our media life offers is a chance – and indeed a responsibility – to see the lives of others in great detail, of appreciating their inevitably inconsistent, contradictory, and complicated demands, and of engaging with parts of the world deliberately – even from the relative comfort of our own personal information space.
1 Feb 2011, The Jamestown Foundation: Special Commentary: Egypt’s Lotus Revolution- Scenarios for a New Middle East
The popular uprising in Egypt, whether it succeeds or not, is already guaranteed to mark a turning point in the Middle East’s political and geo-strategic balance. However, after 58 years of rule under a succession of four Egyptian generals (Naguib, Nasser, Sadat, Mubarak), Egypt’s military-security structure has deep roots – changing this would require something on the scale of the French Revolution. Many powerful people stand to lose everything should a popular revolt go too far and there are few signs of unrest so far among the more traditional fellahin of rural Egypt. The following scenarios are all directions the current unrest could take, each with great significance for the future of the Middle East:
A deluge of analysis pervades the Arab, American, European, and other presses around the world. Much of it is on point, and some of it is actually illuminating even to seasoned observers, politicians, and educators. But the bigger picture regarding the disruption of the balance of power in the region — the elephant in the room — has received short shrift at the same time that it explains the reactions of various regional and international players.
Though the emphasis on whether Mubarak stays or goes carries an undeniable immediacy, after more than a week of turmoil in Egypt, it is clouding the real and perhaps irreversible developments that have swept North African Arab countries and their implications for the region and beyond. Namely, the balance of power that has more or less held in the region since 1979 is no longer, either actually or potentially.
A new regional balance of power is emerging out of the screams, burned tires, and the batons that are being shattered against the bo…
Google and Twitter have launched a service which circumvents the ban on net services in Egypt. The so-called speak-to-tweet system allows people caught up in the unrest to post messages without any need to use an internet connection. The service, which is already live, allows people to dial an international telephone number and leave a voicemail message.
2 Feb 2011, Mubarak’s Digital Dilemma: Why Egypt’s Internet Controls Failed – Andy Greenberg – The Firewall – Forbes
So why did Hosni Mubarak give up on the government’s total information blackout? The answer should be a lesson for other Internet-unfriendly regimes: In any modern country, argues Lucie Morillon, the head of the Internet desk for Reporters Without Borders, (RSF) keeping millions of people offline simply isn’t a sustainable approach to quelling dissent. “There are very few countries in the worlds that can be cut off from the world’s economy for this long,” she says.
Morillon names three factors that likely pushed Egypt back online: First, Egypt’s government faced the embarrassment of ignoring international pressure, including from its fairweather friends in the U.S. State Department, to restore its Internet. Second, its economy suffered from its self-imposed Internet exile; Just two days ago, the country shut down its last Internet working service provider, Noor, which hosted many banks and multi-nationals including Coca-Cola and Egypt Air. But most importantly, Egypt’s Internet blackout simply came too late to be effective. “Protesters were in the streets,” she says. “If they were afraid that the Internet would be used as a tool of mobilization, it had already played that role.”
2 Feb 2011, P2P Foundation » Blog Archive » Social Media and Social Revolutions: what is their relationship?
Recent events around Wikileaks, Tunisia and the total shutdown in Egypt have also given us a valuable lesson into the reliability of corporate social media, and the internet, susceptible to government and corporate control around choke points. This means that at all times, serious activist will be ready not just to apply alternative digital media, but also non-digital media. But in no way am I making an appeal to abandon social media, or the public internet, indeed, this is where the people and the users are, and no social change effort can be successful, if is isolates itself from the mass of the people. Smart social change agents will have a combination of confidential media for their own longer term internal organization, and the judicious and careful use of social media to reach larger audiences.
To come back to the debates we mentioned at the beginning. Yes, peer to peer and social media are deep agents of social change, and essential organizational tools, but they must be part of an integrated strategy, that uses both long term socialization and its short term power of massive and rapid social mobilization.
(Reuters) – Supporters of President Hosni Mubarak opened fire on protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Thursday, killing at least five, in a fresh spike in violence over an unprecedented challenge to his 30-year-old rule.
The opposition responded by renewing demands that he quit.
Thousands of dissidents barricaded themselves into the central Cairo square, vowing to remain until Mubarak goes. For the first time, troops deployed to create a buffer zone of 80 meters (yards) or so between them and pro-Mubarak groups.
The Muslim Brotherhood, a formally banned mass movement seen as the best organized opposition, issued a statement calling for a national unity government to replace Mubarak. The Islamist group, whose potential rise to power troubles Egypt’s Western allies, has so far taken a backseat in the protest movement.
Esta revolución promete ser como la de 1989, pero geoestratégicamente del revés. De momento, las fichas van cayendo, una detrás de otra. Ni uno sólo de los gobiernos árabes ha podido sustraerse a la oleada del cambio. Con mayor o menor celeridad, todos los regímenes están moviéndose para aplacar el descontento, desde medidas sobre los precios de los productos básicos hasta cambios de gobierno, pasando por la rectificación de los habituales planes de sucesión familiar. Aunque el movimiento tectónico no ha hecho más que empezar, ya se puede dar por descontado que la arquitectura geopolítica del mundo árabe y más en concreto de Oriente Medio quedará hecha una ruina. Todos deberán repensar y reconstruir sus estrategias. Ahora se han quedado con las manos vacías.
“Egyptians aren’t demonstrating for an Islamic government any more than the Tunisians were; they’re demonstrating for an honest government – one that will improve education and infrastructure, reduce poverty and inflation, end the Emergency Law, stop torturing people in police stations, stop doing the bidding of the US and Israel in Palestine, stop rigging elections, and, above all, stop lying to them.”
– Adam Shatz, London Review of Books Blog
If bottom-up networks are this dependent on the good graces of top-down authorities for their very functioning, then how bottom-up are they? While in the United States we may have policies protecting free speech and open communication, it is these laws — and not some feature of our internet — that prevent the kinds of censorship we are witnessing in Egypt.
And, as we saw when push came to shove over WikiLeaks in the United States, how quickly this very same authority can be used to cut off “enemies of the state” from access and funding.