Political Activism 2.0: Comparing the Role of Social Media in Egypt’s “Facebook Revolution” and Iran’s “Twitter Uprising”

Author(s) Mohammed El-Nawawy, Sahar Khamis
Contact Sahar Khamis, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA. E-mail: skhamis@umd.edu
Issue CyberOrient, Vol. 6, Iss. 1, 2012, pp. 8-33
Published May 10, 2012
Type Article
Abstract Social media, particularly blogging, Facebook and Twitter, have played a key role in instigating, accelerating and even organizing some of the uprisings and revolutions that have been taking place all over the Middle East. This role has been effective in galvanizing the youth and empowering them in their fights against repressive regimes and their plight for more freedom and independence. This study looks into the social media role in the so-called “Facebook revolution”, which took place in Egypt in January 2011 and the so-called “Twitter uprising”, which took place in Iran in June 2009. The Egyptian revolution did succeed in toppling the regime, while the Iranian uprising failed. Why did the calls for political change that started in the virtual world lead to actual change in the real world in Egypt but not in Iran? This study addresses this question by providing a critical analysis of the available literature and interviews with online activists in Egypt and Iran. The authors used the SPIN model (Segmentation, polycentrism, integration and networking) as a theoretical framework and concluded that the model helped social media succeed in Egypt, but not in Iran.
Keywords democracy, social media, public sphere, Egypt, activism, Iran, information and communication technology, social networks