Using Social Media to Document Egyptian Protests

By Lauren Haberkorn

Social media seems the one reliable way that the outside world continues to learn about the unfolding events surrounding the political turmoil in Egypt. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube may not have sent people out into the streets, but they definitely sped up the process. Now, those of us outside Egypt are relying on these social media outlets to provide updates on the demonstrations going on inside the country.

Citizen journalists inside Egypt originally began broadcasting messages and videos capture on cell phones to provide a glimpse of the protesters gathering and demonstrating in the streets. As protests against President Hosni Mubarak escalated over the last week, the government has responded by blocking the Internet, mobile networks and television broadcasts. The people of Egypt, however, continue to protest and stand up for what they believe in, and journalists continue to capture their stories. Without social media (now mostly by foreign journalists and observers), these voices would not be heard.

Ben Wedeman of CNN has been posting regular updates on Twitter – though the updates are in 140 words or less, he is able to give us a first hand account of what he is seeing. Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times has been updating his Twitter and his Facebook. Not only is he reporting information about the demonstrations, he is also posting personal commentaries and reactions to what he is witnessing. The Wall Street Journal and Washington Post have also been able to update their Facebook accounts. The columnists updates have also generated lots of comments from Facebook users, another great way social media has engaged the public in the news.

Journalists that regularly report for Al-Jazeera have continued to tweet and call in anonymously to other news organizations to report on protests and help post video reports on YouTube despite the fact that the Egyptian authorities took away their press credentials. News organizations like Russia Today also continue to update Youtube with their videos. Journalists on the ground in Egypt and web producers of news organizations live blogged updates to their websites. The Washington Post, New York Times, CNN, Reuters, Al-Jazeera, and The Huffington Post all have live blogs to keep us posted as well.

The fact that the rest of the world is able to get updates is not the only fascinating part of this story. The people that are getting Internet access in Egypt is such a small group of people. This small group of people have created a significant ripple effect and have been able to reach the rest of the world and the people who don’t have Internet access.

YouTube in fact recieved so many uploads of the Egyptian protests that the company is working with real-time media curation company Storyful to organize playlists of the documented footage.

Did social media make all of this happen? No, but it certainly made it all happen a lot sooner than it otherwise might have.

Watch selected videos of the Egyptian protests on Storyful’s YouTube channel

Lauren Haberkorn is a junior studying Corporate Communication in the Diederich College of Communication

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The opinions expressed here are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of Marquette University or the Diederich College of Communication.

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