The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Twitter, Wikileaks and Tunisia

There's been a lot of speculation, notably in the US, over the role social media played in the Tunisian revolution (it sure feels nice to say those two words.)

Wikileaks may have played a minor atmospheric rule in baring to the whole world what was whispered about the Ben Ali regime's corruption, showing that US diplomats were aghast at the mafia nature of his regime.

Social media, from Twitter and Facebook to video upload sites, were crucial in spreading the word about what happened in a country where the press was tightly muzzled. It generated tremendous amounts of solidarity in the Arab world in beyond. But it's just a means of communication, not a driver in itself.

At the end of the day, Tunisians took the streets because they had enough. They risked getting shot and beaten with no guarantee of success. And it's likely that if they hadn't heard about events around their country through Twitter and Facebook, they would have heard it by telephone. The difference is one of velocity: the technology available today allows for faster and more efficient distribution of information, notably including video.

I'll be discussing the same today, at 17:30 Cairo Time, on al-Jazeera English.