The Arab Awakening – Tweets from Tahrir

[New mobile communication technologies such as twitter have been extremely useful for youth, students, and many petty-bourgeois activists in the “Arab Spring” and its many spin-offs in North Africa and in the MiddleEast.  These communication tools have also been recounted as essential instruments, as if there would be no rebellion without tweets, and that is a ridiculous claim.  Additionally, at certain key junctures, the repressive state apparatus has been able to use these new technologies for enhanced surveillance, and at times, when popular over-reliance on twitter was detected by the police, they could systematically shut it off and prevent communications among rebel groups.  Nevertheless, this AlJazeera account of the role of Twitter and Tweets in Tahrir has fascinating insights to one part of the ongoing story of a revolution that has only taken its first step. — Frontlines ed.]


AlJazeeraEnglish on Feb 19, 2012

Cairo’s ‘Twitterati’ tweeted their revolution for 18 days from in and around Tahrir Square.

Young, urbane and highly-motivated, their tweets revealed the truth of the scale of the uprising which Egypt’s state media sought to hide, and gave a street-level, minute-by-minute account of how the persistence and bravery of the Egyptian people brought down a dictator.

Note: The book ‘Tweets From Tahrir’ by OR Books was the inspiration for this film.

NYPD’s social networking unit tracking those “friend requests” and “face recognitions”

[True to form, whenever the police announce or reveal a new and broadly intrusive program  which violates privacy rights, they combine the announcement with a hysteric claim of social decay “beyond the old tools of control” and an implied–but disingenuous–claim that “ordinary, good people” have nothing to fear from fascistic surveillance and controls.  Also true to form, such measures rarely affect “social decay” but always constrain and stifle the lives of millions, who are constantly urged to applaud the restraints. — Frontlines ed.]

NYC police form social media unit to track criminals

By Alice Lipowicz

Aug 10, 2011

Days after London erupted in riots partially blamed on social media, the New York City Police Department has formed a special unit to track people who announce criminal plans or brag about crimes on Twitter, MySpace and Facebook, according to the New York Daily News.

The new juvenile justice unit “will mine social media, looking for info about troublesome house parties, gang showdowns and other potential mayhem,” the newspaper said in an Aug. 10 article. Continue reading

In Tunisia, Cyberwar Precedes Revolution

Jan. 15 2011
Topographic map of Tunisia. Created with GMT f...

On Friday, January 14, 2011, after almost 30 days of increasingly violent protests and government efforts to qwell them, the President of Tunisia Zine el Abidine BEN ALI, who had been in power for 23 years, fled the country. The Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi assumed control of the government and declared a state of emergency. The “Jasmine Revolution” had begun, and immediately made history as Tunisia became the first nation in the Arab world to have its leader removed through a popular uprising of its citizens or, more precisely, its netizens thanks to Tunisia’s modern communications infrastructure, pervasive Internet access and a completely digitized mobile phone network.

BEN ALI’s repressive regime against journalists dates back a long time but the spark for this revolution was the self-immolation of a street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi on December 17th. Ethan Zuckerman has a great article about events in Tunisia wherein he describes what happened next:

Bouazizi’s suicide struck a chord with other frustrated Tunisians. Thousands took to the streets in Sidi Bouzid to protest widespread unemployment, government corruption and lack of opportunity. Another frustrated youth in Sidi Bouzid, Lahseen Naji, killed himself by climbing an electricity pylon while crying out “No for misery, no for unemployment!” before grasping the high voltage line. The Tunisian government responded by sending baton and teargas-wielding reinforcements to the city and by promising future economic development projects. But riots have spread from Sidi Bouzid across the country, and the government has responded by closing the high schools and universities, arresting those they perceive to be ringleaders and imposing a curfew. Global Voices contributor Slim Amamou was one of those arrested on January 6th – we’ve not heard from him or been informed of the charges.”

Besides physical protests and demonstrations, many Tunisians used social media to vent their outrage which prompted an increase in an already repressive government censorship program run by the state’s one ISP – the Tunisia Internet Agency. Continue reading