Tweeting the Revolution

by by Jonah Wolf

Fresh on the heels of the Independent's assessments of the insurrections across the Arab world comes a new site by a group of researchers from the Web Ecology Project (along with Danah Boyd B'00) visualizing the role of social media in this year's uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia. The site accompanies an essay, "The Revolutions Were Tweeted," wherein the authors broke down Twitter users into different categories to find that "bloggers played an important role in surfacing and disseminating news from Tunisia," while in Egypt "[Mainstream Media], Journalists, and Activists were much more engaged in information flows." In both cases, journalists tended to disproportionately favor each other's content over that of activists and unaffiliated bloggers. Bloggers were most likely to re-tweet others' posts, earning them the label of "information routers." In the end, the authors conclude, "individual journalists were sometimes more effective disseminators of information than organizations" -- something the people at NBC News know well. Meanwhile, in Libya, where we noted that "reporters and human rights advocates have uncovered troves of documents amassed by Colonel Qaddafi’s intelligence agency," one lucky citizen has made off with Colonel Qaddafi's hat.