Ivan Watson of CNN was in Austin this week, taking part in SXSW, where he discussed the role social media played in two revolutions that he covered — Egypt and Libya.
Ivan Watson on Social Media in Egypt
When the CNN team arrived in Cairo, explains Watson, the Mubarek government had shut down all cell phone and internet connections, and the team was forced to operate solely via satellite communications. Perhaps a dangerous option, as Syria has taught us (guide to safe SatPhone communications here).
Ivan Watson on Social Media in Libya
Watson and his team had been in Tripoli a couple weeks before the government fell. Text messaging had been down for months, as well as most use of the internet, save for in the hotel in which the Libyan government had been keeping media organizations. With that in mind, social networking played less of an overt role on the ground in the Libyan revolution — except for the cell phone videos uploaded to social networks soon after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, showing the world the dictator’s final moments.
Social Media and Arab Spring
The Watson interview outlines very well how each movement in the Arab Spring is unique unto itself, and that the role social media plays is affected not just by the people involved in the struggle, but also by the government’s tactics in censorship, surveillance and even attempts to shut down entire networks of mass communication.