Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Social Media as Damocles Sword: The Internet for Arab Activists


Unlike Us #3 - Social Media: Design or Decline 

Miriyam Aouragh (UK): Social Media as Damocles Sword: The Internet for Arab Activists
Conference Day #2 (23 March 2013)

The Arab revolutions were based on people-power rather than imperial regime-change. With the help of the internet this unique bravery had global ramifications as it transcended the local, thereby inspiring activists in Wisconsin, Barcelona, Athens and Amsterdam alike. But the role of the internet during political change balances between its empowering and disempowering implications. There are two difficulties with the ‘liberation technology’ approach: first, a peculiar fascination with technology (‘Facebook Revolution’) that echoes previous civilization narratives (Arabs awaking by the availability of non-native modern technologies); second, the celebratory projections overlook other (offline) dynamics and consequences and little emphasis is given to the negative impact of neo-liberalism, such as the geo-political interests in the distribution of counter-revolutionary internet tools. The highly contentious case of Syria demonstrates that local activists have gained some but also suffered a lot from the internet. Surveillance tools and extensive counter-revolutionary social media pages are two of the venue points that help to indicate the power structures.