Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Social Media and Social Movements

Recent coverage of the use of the Internet and social media in the various social movements comprising the "Arab Spring," prompted research, by the Dubai School of Government, into the role played by Twitter and Facebook.  For the study, researchers analyzed access and usage trends in 25 Arab region countries during the first three months of 2011. Among their findings:
  • The number of Facebook users rose significantly, the growth rate during the protests were at least twice the level of the previous year (with the exception of Libya).  Still, overall penetration rates were quite low.
  • In those countries where protests took place, Facebook was used to share calls to protest, often with specific dates attached.  In Tunisia and Egypt, more than 8o% of Facebook posts raised awareness, shared information, or organized actions "related to the movement and events."
  • During that time, the approximately 1.15 million active Twitter users generated almost 23 million tweets.  The most popular topics were #Egypt, #jan25, #libya, #bahrain, and protest.
The researchers concluded that, while the data did not allow consideration of direct causality, "the report provides empirical evidence suggesting that the growth of social media in the region and the shift in usage trends have played a critical role in mobilization, empowerment, shaping opinions, and influencing change."  The academic report provides a lot more details, and is linked below.

Sources -  Civil Movements: The Impact of Facebook and TwitterJournalist's Resource
Civil Movements: The Impact of Facebook and TwitterArab Social Media Report, 1(2), May 2011

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