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The Role Of Social Media In The Arab Uprisings

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Almost immediately after the Arab uprisings began, there was debate over the role and influence of social media in the ouster of Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and the imminent overthrow of Mubarak.

In covering what some deemed the Facebook or Twitter revolutions, the media focused heavily on young protesters mobilizing in the streets in political opposition, smartphones in hand.

And since then, the violent and sectarian unrest in Syria has brought increased attention to the role of citizen journalism.

Social media indeed played a part in the Arab uprisings. Networks formed online were crucial in organizing a core group of activists, specifically in Egypt.

Civil society leaders in Arab countries emphasized the role of “the internet, mobile phones, and social media” in the protests.

Additionally, digital media has been used by Arabs to exercise freedom of speech and as a space for civic engagement.

Now, research is emerging that reexamines in a more detailed way the role that social media played in the Arab uprisings.

Twitter, Facebook and other new media offer ways for the Arab-American news media to reach audiences, but also pose a threat to smaller outlets.

In addition to keeping up with the online presence of larger news organizations, Arab-American media are forced to compete with user-generated content that is rapidly available to audiences.

The utility of social media in accessing information became clear during the Arab uprisings and events such as Egypt’s parliamentary and presidential elections.

However, Manneh of New America Media points out that the credibility of this information is difficult to verify “depending on where it’s from, to whom it’s attributed, [and] especially when various events are happening very quickly.

Arab-American news outlets find they must compete with this abundance of online content in order to evolve alongside readers who are increasingly turning to the internet for information.

Newspapers have made the greatest inroads here so far, with most offering at least some form of digital content, while still maintaining print versions for older generations and those who prefer a physical newspaper.

Radio programs, in light of the continuing challenge to find advertising sponsorship, are beginning to shift online.

Arab-American television, on the other hand, has yet to even really find a place amid the satellite programming available from Arab countries.

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