At dinner on Sunday night, my family started discussing the “uprising in Egypt” and the role technology has played. With three generations seated at the table (well, actually four generations—but the 6 year old didn’t have too many opinions on the subject) we all had differing opinions as a result of our diverse backgrounds and personal experiences with technology and social media (or lack there of).
There was one thing we could all agree on—social media will continue to be an integral tool in communicating dissent and dissatisfaction as well as providing a communication tool to organize groups to take action (positive or negative).
Did social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) play a role in the escalation? Sure. Was it the root cause for why so many people started protests? No. A good article from FastCompany discusses the growing power of social media and states that there were three roles:
- Organizing protests
- Shaping the narrative
- Putting pressure on Washington
While I’m not sure I agree that Washington shifted their position based upon what Twitter and YouTube were depicting, I do think that the sheer volume of these multiple viewpoints as well as their complexity, makes it more difficult to “shape the message” when unfiltered comments and tweets are circulating the Web.
The response of the Egyptian government to literally shut down the Internet access shows how an uprising can easily and quickly take shape within online communities. Even US State Department spokesman, P.J. Crowley issued a tweet that “We are concerned that communication services, including the Internet, social media and event this tweet, are being blocked in Egypt” only proves the position that Social Media is here to stay as an information source.
Update: Mashable’s Vadim Lavrusik wrote an excellent piece “How Journalists Are Using Social Media to report on Egyptian Demonstrations”
Lavrusik highlight a lot of great points in how various Social Media tools are being used.
And, just announced today from the Google Blog:
“Speak to Tweet” offering as a response to the Egyptian government shutting down all Internet access.
We worked with a small team of engineers from Twitter, Google and SayNow, a company weacquired last week, to make this idea a reality. It’s already live and anyone can tweet by simply leaving a voicemail on one of these international phone numbers (+16504194196 or +390662207294 or +97316199855) and the service will instantly tweet the message using the hashtag #egypt. No Internet connection is required. People can listen to the messages by dialing the same phone numbers or going to twitter.com/speak2tweet.
We hope that this will go some way to helping people in Egypt stay connected at this very difficult time. Our thoughts are with everyone there. (Posted by Ujjwal Singh, CoFounder of SayNow and AbdelKarim Mardini, Product Manager, Middle East & North Africa.)