SHAFAQNA – Social media as a political tool came of age in the Middle East well before it was a major contender in American politics. When the Arab Spring erupted in 2011, the U.S. was still years away from maintaining an official Twitter account for its President.
Development of social media and technology influenced the political landscape in the Middle East. Social media has been used by a new generation, has been able to optimize the capacity of mobilization, as a force for democratization. Media seem to offer development of new forms of political activism so Future political activists will have an infrastructure in place that they could not have dreamed of a decade ago.
According to Caravan*, The spread of the internet and the proliferation of social media have led to dramatic changes with salutary results: greater access to more diverse information, gateways to goods and services that have transformed the retail experience, and opportunities to engage and network with expanded communities, while still staying in touch with friends and family, all thanks to the blessings of these new.
Social media as a political tool came of age in the Middle East well before it was a major contender in American politics. When the Arab Spring erupted in 2011, the U.S. was still years away from maintaining an official Twitter account for its President. It’s only in the last few years that the impact of social media on the political process in the United States has started to catch up, Popular Science reports.
Joe Brown, editor in chief of Popular Science compared the use of social media in Egypt during the Arab Spring to its later role in the American 2016 election. “You had a group of people who were not in control, using non-mainstream media outlets to take control,” he said.
Social media played a prominent role in the January 2011 protests in Tahrir Square in Cairo, which forced Hosni Mubarak from power. Communication technology facilitated the mobilization of demonstrators as well as information sharing, so much so that journalists came to speak of the “Facebook Revolution.”
Today, Saudis are the most active per capita users of Twitter, YouTube and Instagram in the world, with one of the deepest smart phone penetrations globally. Not long ago, in the year 1990, when Iraqi tanks rolled into Kuwait, Saudis were largely kept in the dark in the immediate aftermath: newspapers and television were banned from reporting the news. Today, in Saudi Arabia, such a ban would be meaningless, even laughable. The news would spread in seconds via Twitter and other social media. Saudis produce more than 200 million tweets per month.
Saudi social media has produced some stars, like the comedian collective known as Telfaz11. They are the ones behind the “No Woman, No Drive” viral video mocking the Saudi women driving ban to the tune of Bob Marley’s famous “No Woman, No Cry.” Saudis were also among the first of many countries to produce a Gangnam Style parody video (“Saudi Gangnam Style”), shortly after the Korean pop song went viral globally. There is even a young, Saudi-based female comedian, and a bevy of aspiring Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube wanna-be, Caravan* reported.
Now, we’re grappling with the uncontrolled mass dissemination of unverified, often false information. “Social media cannot be ignored, you cannot put the genie back in the bottle,” Reporter Ayman Mohyeldin said during a live-streamed conversation with Joe Brown, editor in chief of Popular Science. But he cautions that many proposed attempts to regulate its usage—asking people to verify their accounts with personal identification in the same way they would open a bank account, for example—could be harmful.
He would rather err on the side of having incorrect information circulating in the ether, knowing there will be accurate news to counter it, than open an avenue for the government to squash information and ideas deemed undesirable.
* Social Media in the Middle East.2017.Caravan, a Publication of the Hoover Institution on Contemporary Dilemmas in the Greater Middle East.
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