Social media fuelled the Arab Spring, then helped dictators quash it

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“Comment: Social media played an important role in the Arab uprisings, but over the last decade, authoritarian regimes have embraced this technology for their repressive agendas, writes Marc Owen Jones.

A decade ago, online videos and images of the early martyrs of the Arab revolutions humanised them, evoking empathy while galvanising solidarity at the weight of injustice faced by millions across the region.

Social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook provided both platforms for organisation as well as spaces for activists to forge new networks. The widely shared images from the Egyptian revolution even showed some protesters holding up banners with Facebook and Twitter on them, such was their perceived importance.

With the exception of Tunisia, the past 10 years have all but shattered any illusion of a technology-facilitated overthrow of authoritarian regimes in the Middle East. The debate about technological utopianism, or liberation technology, verus technological utopianism, have become less fevered. …

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