Study confirms social media’s revolutionary role in Arab Spring

facebook lobbyist says it allows too much free speech in some countries an egyptian anti government demonstrator

Social media really did play an instrumental role in the wave of “Arab Spring” revolutions that swept across parts of the Middle East and Northern Africa earlier this year, a new study has found. 

Researchers at the University of Washington sifted through more than 3 million tweets, countless hours of YouTube videos and gigabytes of blogs to find out whether the Internet, and social media services like Twitter and Facebook really played the revolutionary role many claimed they did. 

According to the study, online chatter about revolution often began just before actual revolutions took place. And social media also served as an outlet for citizens of the region to tell their stories of revolution, which played an inspirational role for neighboring countries, the study found.

“Our evidence suggests that social media carried a cascade of messages about freedom and democracy across North Africa and the Middle East, and helped raise expectations for the success of political uprising,” said Philip Howard, a University of Washington communications professor and the study’s leader. “People who shared interest in democracy built extensive social networks and organized political action. Social media became a critical part of the toolkit for greater freedom.”

In Egypt, where the Arab Spring blossomed, Howard and his team found that the number of tweets that mentioned revolution in that country exploded from 2,300 per day to more than 230,000 per day. The number of videos, Facebook updates and blog posts about government opposition also rose dramatically. 

Because Twitter users can send updates from any mobile phone, Howard says that platform offers the “clearest evidence of where individuals engaging in democratic conversations were located during the revolutions,” since many people in the region do not have standard Internet access, but most do have a cellphone. 

The study also found that government efforts to cut off access to Internet and cell phone service likely caused an increase in activism, especially in Egypt where access was shut down for five days before being restored.

“Recent events show us that the public sense of shared grievance and potential for change can develop rapidly,” said Howard. “These dictators for a long time had many political enemies, but they were fragmented. So opponents used social media to identify goals, build solidarity and organize demonstrations.”

More recently, social media helped fuel days of riots in London and elsewhere in the UK. British Prime Minister David Cameron responded by saying that citizens who organize uprisings on social networks should be banned from accessing them — a suggestion that evoked ridicule from the notoriously authoritarian Iranian government. That idea was later discarded following a meeting between the British government, Twitter, Facebook and BlackBerry.

Social Media

Periscope tool adds guests to feeds so streamers can become talk show hosts

Periscope users can now invite viewers to chime into the conversation with more than just the comment tool. By enabling the option to add guests, livestreamers can add guests to the conversation, in audio format only.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix right now (February 2019)

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Computing

Confused about RSS? Don't be. Here's what it is and how to use it

What is an RSS feed, anyway? This traditional method of following online news is still plenty useful. Let's take a look at what RSS means, and what advantages it has in today's busy world.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Movies & TV

Stay inside this winter with the best shows on Hulu, including 'Legion'

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Photography

Crouching, climbing, and creeping, the perfect Instagram shot knows no bounds

Just how far will you go for the perfect Instagram? A recent survey shows just how willing Instagram users -- and Instagram husbands -- are to climb, lie down, embarrass themselves or let their food go cold for the perfect shot.
Social Media

Facebook’s long-promised ‘unsend’ feature arrives. Here’s how to use it

Send a message to the wrong person? Messenger now gives you 10 minutes to take it back. After an update beginning to roll out today, users can now retract messages if they act within the first 10 minutes after sending the message.
Social Media

YouTube boss admits even her own kids gave the ‘Rewind’ video a thumbs down

YouTube's 2018 Rewind video went down like a lead balloon at the end of last year, becoming the most disliked video in its history. And now YouTube's CEO has admitted that even her own kids thought it was pretty darn awful.
Social Media

Snapchat finally recovers from its redesign — so here comes an Android update

Snapchat's drop in users after launching a controversial redesign has finally stagnated. During the fourth quarter and 2018 earnings report, Snapchat shared that the company is rolling out an Android update designed to increase performance.
Social Media

Skype’s new ‘blur background’ feature could help keep you from blushing

Skype's latest feature for desktop lets you blur your background during video calls. The idea is that it keeps you as the focus instead of distracting others with whatever embarrassing things you might have on show behind you.
Social Media

Twitter users are declining but more people are seeing ads every day

Twitter's end-of-the-year report for 2018 is a mix of good and bad news. The good news is that more users are seeing adds daily, the metric the company will focus on moving forward. But the bad news is that monthly active users are…
Web

Switch up your Reddit routine with these interesting, inspiring, and zany subs

So you've just joined the wonderful world of Reddit and want to explore it. With so many subreddits, however, navigating the "front page of the internet" can be daunting. Here are some of the best subreddits to get you started.
Computing

YouTube beats Apple, Netflix as the most trusted brand by millennials

The popular video sharing website YouTube climbed up in an annual Mblm study, moving up from third place in 2018 and coming ahead of both Apple and Netflix in final 2019 rankings. 
Social Media

LinkedIn finally gets around to launching its own live video tool

Live video is coming to LinkedIn for businesses and individuals on the site. The livestreaming feature is launching in beta in the U.S. before rolling out to the entire community.