Social Media Around the World: Join the Facebook Event!

When Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey founded Facebook and Twitter, they probably didn’t know the incredible response their sites would receive around the world, and how important their social media sites are for activism, protests, and movements in many parts of the world. Because we are living in a more flattened world, people almost everywhere have access to Facebook and Twitter accounts, and about 80% of Facebook’s users are outside of the United States, according to Gallagher, allowing these sites to reach a global audience. The flattening world allows people even in poor countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East to have access to smartphones and social media websites because of the cheaper costs of technology, so they can connect with each other and share information.


Because there are so many social media users on a global scale, these sites are a good source for action and organizing political and social activities, especially in countries experiencing instability. According to one site, “social media have already proven significant tools in myriad protests, causes, uprisings, and conflicts.” For example, a Time Article spoke about the use of Twitter as a tool during the 2009 presidential elections in Iran. Since Twitter gets out information quickly, easily, and concisely, it makes it ideal for mass movements. The Iranian government tried to suppress Twitter users from posting anything negative or oppositional about the elections, but this was not very successful. Even the US State Department intervened and told Twitter to delay maintenance until after the Iranian presidential elections were over, so protesters could have a chance to speak their mind in a public forum. It was also noted that the Iranian government tried to suspend Facebook use during that period because Facebook can be a convenient way to organize people to take group action.


There have been many other examples of social media use during the Arab Spring demonstrations and how it has been a tool for collective action. The tools not only allow people in the countries to connect with each other, but they display images and information that can be seen all around the world, so everyone else knows what is going on and can track history as it is unfolding. BBC News9 did a report about the Internet’s role in Egypt’s protests in 2011, and how large coalition of groups were organized through Facebook even after Egyptian government tried to block the sites. Reportedly 600,000 ‘liked’ a Facebook group to protest at Khaled Said’s death. People are able to communicate and meet virtually without the fear of getting broken up by police during a physical meeting. In Tunisia, Facebook had a huge effect. According to a professor of American studies at Birmingham University in England, Facebook was an important way to broadcast the news of what was happening in Tunisia and a reporter at BBC News said, “The fall of Mr. Ben Ali [President of Tunisia] showed people across the Arab World that poplar protests could bring down a dictator.” Social media has been a crucial aid in political protests and uprisings in many countries around the world.

Here is a video about social media use in the Arab World

One of the problems with the use of social media for protests is that governments can track the use of public dissenters on social media sites, and they can them into trouble. Posts are never truly private, so putting information into a public forum involves risks. For example, Iran turned the tables and used the Internet to arrest dissidents during the election. Other governments use social media for spreading their own propaganda and intimidating others. Some countries also seek to ban social media in general, such as China, North Korea, and Cuba. China is known as the “Great Firewall,” which censors Internet and media activity, and has been successful at banning Facebook and Twitter. These governmental actions can make it difficult for citizens to interact and participate in protests because of the fear of government backlash and the difficulty of communication. Regardless, social media is used as a crucial tool for activism, revolutions, and political uprisings in countries, and it is a way for everyone else to witness history as it is unfolding.

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5 thoughts on “Social Media Around the World: Join the Facebook Event!

  1. Undoubtedly one of the great benefits of social media, in my eyes, is allowing for the citizens to communicate in otherwise censored countries. By giving people a voice on Twitter or Facebook, it allows for large groups of people to try establish their opinion in political issues. The point you made about social media activity making it easier for governments to systematically target individual protesters illustrates a sad situation for many people of the world. However, I suppose this is just another example of the double-edged sword we talk about so much. Even if social media use does get some people into trouble, at least they are finally getting an opportunity to voice their opinions.

    I really think this topic, the role of social media in politics, is a very important one. It also hits a lot closer to home than we might think. Over the past two presidential elections, President Obama has used technology and social media far more effectively than his opponents, translating into two rather substantial victories. Social media can be a really powerful political tool. I just hope it continues to be used correctly.

  2. Social media is extremely helpful in organization, as your article explains, but can also be extremely harmful because of how far-reaching of an audience is using social media. The more people that trust what they see and hear on sources like Twitter or Facebook, the more people that will potentially come away with false information. Although we often mention how free the internet is, there are some instances where this isn’t the case. For example in China, when you Google the term “Tiananmen Square,” pictures of peaceful gardens inside the square will appear on the image search. However, the real occurrences of Tiananmen Square are marked by invasion of tanks and a physically violent Chinese militia, resulting in over 200 deaths of protesters. The Chinese government hides this from its people on the web, making the internet an unreliable source. This is just one example of how the internet can warp what the knowledge that people have and trust in.

  3. I enjoyed how you looked at social media use outside of the US. It is a perspective I have rarely thought about myself. I agree with John that it is great social media can provide a voice to those in countries with oppressive governments. After hearing stories like this, you realize just how lucky you are to live in America where we do not have to fear our government in regard to our social media use and opinions. I find the lengths governments will go to in other countries to suppress the impacts of social media unbelievable. Both the examples in your blog, and the example Katie gives about China is shocking. I am interested to see what happens as the technology behind social media progresses and the impact it has on countries’ policies. Finally, your pictures, video, and links worked nicely to enhance your overall post.

  4. This was a great topic to write your blog post on and I learned alot reading it. In the fall, I took a course called Comparative Revolutions and we spent a large portion of the time talking about the Arab Spring. After studying the Arab Spring, which I previously did not know much about in detail, I realized the immense impact social media had on the revolutions/ uprisings that occurred. It is crazy that social media can play such an important role in instances such as these, and therefore largely shape the future of certain countries. If any one is curious, the book is titled “The Battle for the Arab Spring” writen by Lin Noueihed and it includes an entire chapter about the role social media played in the revolutions. Overall, this was a great topic to write your blog on and I think is so important.

  5. Great blog post! Last week I blogged about social media use in developing countries. On it, I explained how Twitter had been essential for the organization and voicing of protests in my country, Venezuela, during the last presidential elections. In these countries where freedom of speech, TV, and newspaper is deeply regulated, social media is the voice of the people.

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