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Facebook Resistance? Understanding the role of the Internet in the Arab Revolutions

28 Mar 2011

Revolutions are currently sweeping the Arab world: from Tunisia to Egypt and Libya to Bahrain. After decades of dictatorship, mass mobilisations and strikes are bringing down presidents and redrawing constitutions. These mass revolts are inspirational throughout the world and have swiftly shattered the notion of passivity and complacency that has for long been coined as the ‘Arab exception’. But the unfolding events raise many questions, most pressingly: what were the main reasons of this unprecedented turmoil. The role of the Internet has been reported as a key source. The soundbites that resonated during the Iran protests in 2009 – Twitter Revolution – were neatly echoed or replaced with new ones – Facebook Revolution.

But despite the stormy debates taking place online and offline, fueled by the massive outpour of journalistic editorials about the impact of the Internet, we in fact know little of the empirical role of the Internet in these revolutions; neither in terms of Internet producers nor Internet consumers. In times of revolution, how can traditional academic frameworks regarding the social and political implications of the Internet help explain the dialectic between technology and social change as well as offering a way forward to the very people on the ground employing these new tools? These and other issues will be discussed by a panel of experts representing an interesting mix of academics and activists.