Why 2011 Will Be Defined by Social Media Democracy
On Jan. 25, 2011 pictures and videos flooded out of Egypt as tens of thousands of anti-government protestors took to the streets in a “Day of Rage” protest over President Mubarak’s 30-year rule.
Pro-democracy sympathizers across the world retweeted and shared the updates, even as the Egyptian government disabled cellphone towers and blocked Twitter in an attempt to censor the material. Reports indicated that households and businesses opened up their Wi-Fi networks to support the protesters and to allow the dissemination of information. The pictures and videos that continued to appear across YouTube andFacebook trended on Twitter worldwide, both inspiring and shocking international onlookers.
Besides bank defaults and credit downgrades, 2011 will be remembered for the rise of social media democracy in countries traditionally ruled by autocratic governments — most notably, the Arab Spring. The wave of protests that began in Tunisia in December 2010 spread first to Egypt, then to Libya, Bahrain, Syria and Yeman, with protests of varying sizes across many more middle-Eastern countries.
In regions where official media has been heavily censored for years, the rise of personal access to the Internet and social networks has meant that populist movements now have a voice that can reach the outside world.