I recently heard a reporter refer to the uprising in the Middle East as the “Facebook Revolution” and wondered what he meant exactly. I was hoping to get some answers at the above-mentioned SXSW panel. The panelists included a reporter, a couple of tech gurus and an activist.
Habib Haddad, the founder YallaStartup, started off by talking about the misconception that people in the Middle East are not tech savvy. I have to admit that I was surprised to learn that protesters were using multiple internet avenues such as Facebook and YouTube to mobilize.
What I found interesting was that while technology was helping the protesters, it was also being used as a tool for the government. Government officials were sent to infiltrate these social networks and pose as protesters. Every time protesters tried to plan a rally, the plants relayed the info to the military.
Ironically, the decision to cut off internet access to the masses was the government’s demise. Many of the protesters later claimed that by being denied internet access, they became restless and decided to actually take the fight to the streets when, otherwise, they would have stayed at home.