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Three Ways Activists in Egypt Use Social Media

February 3, 2014

Academic Perspective

What kinds of things are political activists doing with social media in the post-Tahrir era?

Information technology scholar Ramesh Srinivasan published a new article on the ways political activists across the spectrum–from the Muslim Brotherhood to democratic youth groups to pro-military types–are using social media in the post-Tahrir era.

Entitled “What Tahrir Square Has Done for Social Media: A 2012 Snapshot in the Struggle for Political Power in Egypt,” the article has been published in the latest issue of The Information Society.

According to Srinivasan, activists are using social media:

  1. to move beyond their traditional core groups to link up with supporters among broader, more  diverse segments of the population.
  2. to create links between different nodes in the media ecology
  3. to undermine rival activists by spreading counterpropaganda and misinformation, and even hacking competing groups’ sites.

Here’s the abstract:

While the debate rages on the role of social media technologies in the initial days of the Egyptian revolution of 2011, a more relevant research question today is the role of social media within an increasingly contested and turbulent political sphere. This article identifies three key modes by which social media is being exploited to impact political power, and uncovers the salience of each of these through 2 years of multisited ethnographies and interviews. First, I argue that political actors across the political spectrum, from liberals to Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan), are using technologies to build wider ranging, heterogeneous, and diverse networks of supporters, expanding their base from a more historically homogeneous core support group. Second, I argue that actors are working to build bridges between older and newer media platforms, recognizing that each platform is increasingly being shaped by the other. Finally, I describe some of the ways that technology is being used by activists to subvert their competition, promoting campaigns of misinformation and hacking at the expense of others.

References:

Srinivasan, Ramesh. 2014. What Tahrir Square Has Done for Social Media: A 2012 Snapshot in the Struggle for Political Power in Egypt. The Information Society 30(1):  71-80.

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