The Arab Spring:
A collective term to describe the wave of revolutions and uprisings within the Arab Middle East since 2011.
The Arab Spring essentially began in 2010 when Tunisian man Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in protest of unemployment. Mohamed was a fruit and vegetable street vendor who had been publicly humiliated by a municipal officer who confiscated his scales and cart, leaving him job less. Bouazizi angered and humiliated went to the governors office to complain and get his property back. But the governor refused to see him, which Bouazizi responded with “If you don’t see me, I’ll burn myself.” Bouazizi then acquired a can of gasoline from a nearby gas station and returned to the governor’s office. While standing in the middle of traffic, he shouted, “How do you expect me to make a living?”. He then doused himself with the gasoline and set himself alight with a match at 11:30 a.m. local time, less than an hour after the altercation.
Outraged by the events that led to Bouazizi’s self-immolation, protests in Sidi Bouzid within hours which brewed for two weeks, while police tried to calm them down. The protests became more wide spread and violent. Not only were these protests local and violent, but the events led to a huge social media blow up with hashtags and live reports and footage from the protests being spread on Twitter and Facebook. The hashtag #sidibouzid had been used thousands upon thousands of times all over the globe.
As the message went viral, protests across the globe broke out showing solidarity for Tunisia. The social revolution had begun for the Arab Spring, with mainstream media being tossed to the curb and social media covering the news most efficiently.
The Tunisia government began hacking Facebook accounts to spy on social media users that were deemed by the government as enemies, censoring free speech and controlling what its people were posting. Online hacking organisation Anonymous didn’t like this so they launched Operation Tunisia which included a series of DDoS attacks against government websites. Additionally, Anonymous provided protesters with documents required to take down the incumbent government as well as distributing a care package, among other things and a greasemonkey script to avoid proxy interception by the government. Also allowing the passing of information in and out of the country. But the world was so involved in these series of events thanks to the internet, that social media successful allowed for the advocation of human rights in Tunisia with the support of the world. Whilst main stream media had the story, social media was still by far the best form of instant communication.
Social media was also used by many people to organise protests and events. Due to the success of the Tunisian revolt, other Arab countries were inspired to revolt against what they felt was injustice. The revolutions that swept all corners of the Arab Middle East were characterized by the instrumental use of social media, especially Facebook, Twitter, blogs, YouTube, and text messaging by protesters, to achieve a number of pragmatic goals, such as group networking, on-the-ground organizing, and offering practical advice on how to confront police brutality or how to avoid arrest. Arab cyberactivists created online platforms that served as important venues for the exchange of ideas and the formulation of collective public opinion. This sort of cyberactivism aloud for citizen journalism, giving people who didn’t have a voice, a voice.
Social media allowed for citizens to show the underlying causes for eruption of the Arab Spring such as governmental brutality, limitations on freedom of expression, flaws in the political system, official corruption, and violations of human rights, as well as allowing them to disseminate words and images to each other, and, most importantly, to the outside world.