Mittwoch, 8. Mai 2013

Ignite Talk: Arab Spring

Doing the Ignite talk was my favourite task during the course: partly due to the issue we talked about - the Arab Spring - and partly because I really like the combination of words and pictures with the precise summing up of our findings and the challenge to get everything across in 5 minutes.
We decided to split up the topic, discussing several positive aspects of Social Media in these conflicts on one hand and the dangers and problems associated with it (that was my part) on the other hand.

While the mobilizing and motivational aspects of Social Media have been widely discussed (and sometimes overestimated) the dangers of Social Media being used as a means for censorship, control and repression have to be mentioned more often. Only if both sides are brought into the discussion it can be balanced out.

As the example of the Arab Spring shows, it is hard to control the Internet (and other ICTs) but nevertheless, some (authoritarian) states struggle hard to master the new technologies and (re-)gain the hegemony on the net. During the Arab Spring uprisings, it became obvious that control and censorship may hinder mobilization and political engagement, but that there are situations when citizens struggle hard and find ways to circumvent it. Looking at the ongoing technological race between dictators who want to establish censorship and control and citizens who fight it, the question who will win in the end
remains open, being a question of both politics and technology.

Finally, here are my slides:

Social media is ambivalent: it can help citizens in the fight against authoritarian regimes, but it also 
facilitates state surveillance: hacking computers of opponents is easier than breaking into houses for 
State censorship of social media prevents not only the free flow of ideas and the freedom of 
expression. It also constraints information, hinders mobilization and is used to suppress the 
In countries like Egypt, Libya and Bahrain, regimes have shut down the Internet during the 
protests.. Other states  slow down Internet traffic to hinder access and impede its use for organising 

Regimes can fight back by detecting dissidents’ networks. They look for traces of their opponents 
on the web, use personal information, hack accounts and identify protesters through photographs.

Now we would like to discuss with you. What do you think: in the future, will social media more 
likely be a tool for liberation or for repression?