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Friday, January 28, 2011

Follow the Arab World Protests Online

Protestors in Egypt/Mahmoud El-Nahas@M_Na7as
Protestors in Egypt/Mahmoud El-Nahas@M_Na7as

It started in Tunisia, where weeks of protests forced dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to step down on Jan. 14. Now Egypt, the historic hub of the Arab world, is in its third day of protests to end the 30-year regime of Hosni Mubarak; and Yemen is aping the Tunisians, too. Unlike prior eras of Mideast unrest, it's all happening online. Here's how to follow what could be history in the making.



Twitter Hashtags

The most important one in Egypt is #Jan25, the date that the protests begun. Jared Cohen, the former State Department tech guru, took #Jan25 to explain the organizing strategy of Egyptians he encountered in Cairo. "facebook used to set the date, twitter used to share logistics, youtube to show the world, all to connect people," he tweeted.
#Sidibouzid was what the Tunisian protesters used, and it's still active -- not just to alert people to the latest in the Tunisian transition, but to connect them to the Egyptian and Yemeni uprisings as well. So far, it doesn't look like a hashtag has emerged for the Yemen protests, but people are using #Yemen in combination with #Sidibouzid and #Jan25 to show that all these demonstrations have a singular purpose: freedom in the Arab world.
For more up-to-the-picosecond news, be sure to follow @SultanAlQassemi and @EgyptUpdates, too.

Viral Video

One of the most iconic videos taken in Egypt and frequently uploaded is Water Cannon Man: a protester who steps in front of a military truck that's dousing his comrades with a high-pressure hose to block its access, Tiananmen Square-style. Algeria hasn't yet faced the same widespread demonstrations, but earlier this month, video started appearing of youth setting barricades alight and throwing rocks at cops. And activists have started uploading how-to tips for getting around government shutdowns of social media and websites. There don't seem to be many from Yemen so far, but Al Jazeera has this much-uploaded clip today from the capital, Sanaa.

Al Jazeera

Speaking of the Arab World's largest satellite-news channel, it took its lumps earlier this week for being slow to cover the Egypt demos. But its English-language broadcast and website have gotten back on the ball with the latest news, images and analysis of the region-wide shakeup.

Aggregation and blogging

If you don't read Arabic but still want to know What It All Means, Issandr El Amrani at the Arabist has everything from ponderous, history-informed essays to compelling Flickr sets. The Moor Next Door goes super in-depth; if you like political science, you'll benefit from this blog. If you want the latest from around the Mideast web compiled in a one-RSS-feed format, top aggregators include the New York Times Lede blog and Andrew Sullivan at the Atlantic. Want more analysis after you page through the hashtags? Stop by the Mideast Channel at Foreign Policy.


Facebook has also shown to be an accessible platform for posting and consuming instant text, photo, and video information about riot-related events moments after they occur. The facebook page We are all Khaled Said was created after 28-year-old Said was tortured to death by 2 Egyptian policemen in the street. With 22,847 members, the page has transformed into a depository for first-hand footage as well as a mobilization tool for further protests.

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