Welcome to our weekly edition of what’s hot in digital and social media. As always, the news and latest developments in the digital world have been overwhelming and really exciting. Here are some of the news pieces that caught my attention: Mubarak fined for information shutdown Hosni Mubarak was ousted in an uprising in Egypt in January 2011. A Cairo court yesterday fined the ousted president and two ex-ministers $US90 million for a mobile and internet shutdown during the uprising.
Recently I had the opportunity to attend the Doha Debates; a well-known series that is produced in Doha, Qatar by the Qatar Foundation and aired monthly via BBC World news. The aim of the debates: to enable the outside world to catch a glimpse of the issues affecting the Arab world, and provide a free forum for discussion. Launched over seven years ago, the programme – which is filmed in front of a select audience of students and high-end university scholars – identifies tough local issues and pulls in senior level politicians and academics from across the world to discuss, debate and take questions from the audience.
Continuing with its theme, Arab Media: Riding out Storms of Change, the concluding day of the Arab Media Forum 2011 provided some insight into how media is expected to evolve in the region following the Arab uprising. In a session entitled, Media in a Shifting Arab World, one of the key changes highlighted by the panel’s speakers was the rise of the “citizen journalist” – the concept of members of the public playing an active role in breaking news, as well as collecting and reporting information to professional journalists.
It is obvious to say that social media has become a force to be reckoned with in the engine we call mass communication. What wasn’t so “obvious”, however, was exactly how powerful Facebook, Twitter and YouTube would one day become. I started working for Facebook a year ago, and little did I know what this year would have in store. Throughout my various interviews for the first Arabic role at Facebook Dublin, I constantly reiterated the importance of allowing people an open forum to speak freely and honestly.
Being here in the Middle East we’ve been able to witness history unfold at a rapid pace over the past few months. From Tunisia to Egypt and now Libya, it seems impossible that news can move any faster than it already is. But now Al Jazeera has gone a step further and released a mesmerizing new tool that tracks tweets about Egypt, Yemen, Libya and Bahrain in real time. Apart from being fascinating to watch, it’s also an interesting tool to see topics and trends as they evolve in real time.
It was John Lennon who sang: You say you want a revolution/Well, you know/We all want to change the world. There’s no doubt the world has changed in the Middle East, perhaps fundamentally. People are saying there was a time before Tunisia, and now a time after Tunisia. In other words, the peaceful revolution that provoked Tunisia’s leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali to throw in the towel and flee to Saudi Arabia has changed everything in the region.
We here at Arabian Bytes have of course been watching the situation in Egypt unfold with great interest, and have especially noted the growing power of social media to shape these events. Rest assured we’ll be posting more about Egypt, Tunisia and the importance of social media soon so stay tuned. In the meantime, we wanted to turn our attention to a “what not to do” case study of hijacking a hashtag.