Tuesday, February 1, 2011

From Madagascar to Tunisia to Egypt: Social Media and Political Crisis

The widespread influence of modern social media worldwide has been phenomenal in the last couple of years.  No longer do remote locations need to exist in isolation from the rest of the world. Island nations, such as Madagascar have adopted modern technology, friends and family who have moved away to various other countries, but have realized that social media tools have evolved into much, much more.  For example, through social media people can express themselves, their opinions, political or otherwise, with wild abandon.  Robert Fine’s The Big Book of Social Media Case Studies, Stories, Perspectives depicts the unprecedented growth and influence of social media outlets throughout the world, including the impact on political issues in Tunisia, Egypt and Madagascar.

Facebook, for instance, used by over six hundred million people, is the most dominant form of social media today. Although newspapers and radio, which now have become less accessible forms of media, and were heretofore regularly utilized to cover major political issues, 2009 marked the emergence of social media bearing great importance in reporting and influencing political hot-spots the world over. While traditional media outlets, such as radio stations, are, to a great extent, regulated in most countries; social media outlets are not, until now.

As a result, residents, politicians, business people, or anyone with something to say can do so freely. So, in places like Madagascar, for example, the residents now have the freedom to speak their minds, as well as benefit from real-time updates during times of unrest and riots, which are, unfortunately, part of the political landscape.

Haja Rasambainarivo, chapter author of “Political Crisis As The Lever-Effect to the Expansion of Social Media: A Case Study of Madagascar”, reveals that:

“…some users took enormous risks to tape videos of pillaging and shootings, which were posted on YouTube or Daily Motion within a few minutes. Twitter has been used in a similar manner to share useful and life saving information.”

On the same note, social media has had a similar impact on the current “Jasmine Revolution” in Tunisia, which traditionally has been a relatively peaceful territory, though under authoritarian rule. While Madagascar faces political crises every seven to ten years, Tunisia has seen very little in its political history. Tunisia has experienced an extremely high unemployment rate, especially for the educated youth of its society, which some attributed to widespread government corruption. Shockingly, organized dissent in the streets of Tunisia—which normally would not be tolerated—made national and international headline news because of social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, and heated CNN reports.

Ultimately, the Tunisian political crisis could be on the cusp of unlimited exposure when it comes to using media outlets to spread the news of its country’s turmoil. News is traveling at light speed, providing instant coverage, and perhaps saving many people from falling victim to violence during this political upheaval. Also, beneficial or not, victims are being portrayed as martyrs on blogs and websites such as Youtube, Facebook, and Daily Motion. Even this week, we can see the impact that social media has had, as the uprisings have jumped from Tunisia to Egypt. Based on the Tunisian experience, the Egyptian government has recently blocked the use of Twitter, to clamp down on it’s citizen’s abilities to communicate and organize.

Without a doubt, social media is revealing all aspects of the communicating world, even changing the world as we speak, and giving ordinary citizens a powerful weapon to wield against corrupt government tactics and injustice.  Robert Fine’s book, The Big Book of Social Media Case Studies, Stories, Perspectives, is an excellent resource for explaining the phenomenon that is social media, and its far-reaching implications.  A must read for those who want to stay abreast of the latest developments in this developing area of technology and communication.


  1. Very well-thought out and enlightening discussion. Thank you for this. I agree, social media such as Facebook is our future for the next while.

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  2. Definitely more to it than the everyday surface stuff. Interesting article. Thanks.


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