Facebook, Twitter Hinder Revolutions

Deprived of the Internet, people get off their tushes and fight
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 29, 2011 6:00 PM CDT
A man takes pictures with his cell phone on Tahrir, or Liberation Square, in Cairo, Egypt, Monday Jan. 31, 2011.   (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

(Newser) – Turns out Facebook and Twitter might actually be hurting revolutions. A political science grad student at Yale argues in a new essay that Egypt's former government quickened its downfall by cutting Internet and cell phone service in January. Instead of scrolling through messages and tweets about Lady Gaga, Egyptians met face-to-face, took to the streets, and staged scattered demonstrations that gave the government a whack-a-mole headache, the New York Times reports.

An Internet expert says Moammar Gadhafi got the message and decided not to cut off Libya's Internet service in March. Iran also keeps service running, but spottily enough to slow down protesters. Even Britain, facing unrest this month, decided to follow protesters online rather than deprive them of Internet access. "Shutting down radicalizes things," says the expert, so smart governments "don’t turn off the Internet anywhere—[they] make it less useful."

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