2011’s Smartest Moments in Pop Culture

Start a Twitter Revolution
Anti-Mubarak Egyptians protesting in February 2011.
Anti-Mubarak Egyptians protesting in February 2011.
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

The pro-democracy Arab Spring movement that brought down dictatorial regimes across the Middle East, including Tunisia, Algeria, Yemen and Syria, was initially spurred by the self-immolation of a fruit and vegetable seller named Mohamed Bouazizi. In December 2010, police in Tunisia forcibly shut down Bouazizi's stand, causing him such distress that he set himself on fire to protest the repressive government and languishing economic conditions within in the country [source: Steinmetz]. As Tunisians began rallying together to oust 23-year President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali from office, they wielded social media, particularly Twitter, as a powerful tool to spread their message of liberation domestically and abroad.

A similar thing happened as Egyptians took over Tahrir Square soon after the Tunisian uprisings, calling for the resignation of dictatorial President Hosni Mubarak. In the week before Mubarak left office, Egyptian tweets skyrocketed from 2,300 to 230,000 [source: Greenfield]. Twitter itself wasn't the deciding factor in the success of the Arab Spring movements, but rather a mouthpiece and facilitator that arguably accelerated the pace and amplified the force of the protests. Studies on Twitter's role in Arab Spring have disagreed on the extent of its real-world revolutionary impact, but it's new place as a protest tool is undeniable, as recently exemplified in the West with the Occupy Wall Street movement [source: Greenfield].

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