While I was in Egypt this summer, citizens explained why they flocked to protests early this year. Their stories focused on hardship and grievances; admiration of the Tunisian revolution; and the power of “street networks,” or the techniques used by mosques, unions and community organisers to rally people in the working class, almost none of whom use social media. (Less than five per cent of Egypt’s population uses Facebook, and less than one per cent uses Twitter.)
Some Egyptian bloggers explained to me that they came to Tahrir Square only after the Mubarak regime hit the “kill switch” on the Internet; they also described unsuccessful protests they tried to organise on Facebook. In addition, activists explained that governments can use social media to monitor dissidents, infiltrate movements and spread propaganda.
That said, social media has indirect effects on mobilising people, including the ability to organise the networks of key activists and shape news coverage. Egyptian TV journalists said to me that they often source stories from Twitter and circulate videos originally shot on mobile phone and disseminated via video-sharing sites. —Five myths about social media – Features – The Sofia Echo.
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