Social Media and the Decision to Participate in Political Protest: Obersavtions from Tahrir Square

The power of social media can bring down a government. 

This message, as clear as it is, has been veryfied by the Egypt’s Tahrir Square protest movement in 2011. That different channels of social media as Facebook, Twitter and so on do have an influence on political protests are now proofed.

To have a better understanding on how social networks can cause a revolution, Zeynep Tufekci and Christopher Wilson started a research during January and Feburary, 2011. Their central research questions were:

“Did social media use shape how they learned about the protest, how they planned their involvement and how they documented their involvement?”

This study, called “Social Media and the Decision to Participate in Political Protest: Observations from Tahrir Square”, analyzed around 1,000 interviews with people who had participated in the demonstrations. A survey has been handed out to the selected group which contains more than 100 different questions from basic demographics over political engagement to use of social media.

The study’s findings include:

  • The majority of the protesters interviewed were male. Both male and female  protestors tended to be well educated but the females were younger compare to the males.
  • Two thrids of the sample has been to different protests before.
  • Even if the majority has been using phones to communicate about the demonstrations, the women were more likely to have Internet access on their phone and at their home than the men.
  • Females of those interviewed used Facebook more likely for both in general and for communicating about the protest rather than Twitter.
  • Nearly half of participants (48.4%) first heard about the protests from face-to-face communications. “Traditional mass media were far less important for information people about the protest than were more interpersonal means of communication (face-to-face, telephone, or Facebook).”
  • Nearly half of participants (48.2%) had shared videos and pictures. More than half of them used Facebook for its sharing. A smaller group used Twitter or E-Mails to share their content with others.

After reading and learning about the findings of this survey one can definetly say that social media has a large influence on the protests at Tahrir Square. The authors gave a good overview on what they found out. In the end it totally makes sense who used social networks, how they have been used and how intensive they have been used during the demonstrations.

Interesting would be to find out if the same use of social media during other protests would bring down other governments also, or if this media use during that causes the Arab Spring is an unique event.

But as we, and also the governments heard of the use of social networks by protesters it will be more difficult as it was for the proteters from Tahrir Square. Also the government is able to check every social network like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and so on. They can do both, provide themselves and also try to turn other people in different directions.



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