Tweeting Toward Freedom?
A Survey of Recent Articles: "After Revolt, Egyptians Try to Shape New Politics" by Neil MacFarquhar, from The New York Times (March 18, 2011); "Small Change" by Malcolm Gladwell, in The New Yorker (Oct. 4, 2010); "The Political Power of Social Media" by Clay Shirky, in Foreign Affairs (Jan.–Feb. 2011); "How Much Did Social Media contribute to Revolution in the Middle East?" by Evgeny Morozov, in Bookforum (April–May 2011); and "Freedom.gov" by Evgeny Morozov, in Foreign Policy (Jan.–Feb. 2011).
When Egyptian activist and Google marketing manager Wael Ghonim reflected on the overthrow in February of Hosni Mubarak, he said, “Everything was done by the people [for] the people, and that’s the power of the Internet.” Some credit a Facebook page with sparking the Egyptian protests. Twitter, too, played a role, but a different one—helping to spread news to audiences in Egypt, but mostly abroad. Ghonim sees great power in these tools. “If you want to liberate [a people],” he said, “give them the Internet.”
Not everyone is so sure. It’s too soon to say how large a role social media have played in the recent Middle East upheavals, but a debate about the Internet’s potential to promote democracy has raged for at least a decade, since before Facebook even existed.
To read the rest of this article, please consider becoming a WQ subscriber, which allows online access to the current WQ issue as well as archive content. Other access options are below.
Research, browse, and discover more than 35 years of articles, essays, and reviews by preeminent scholars and writers. Our searchable archive of back issues is free for WQ subscribers.