I find what is happening in the Middle East both fascinating and frightening. Revolutions that started in Tunisia have spread to Egypt and are rumored to be heading to Lebanon, Syria, Sudan, and possibly Libya and more. On one hand, the people have stood up against dictators, corruption, government waste,political imprisonment, and have asked for more rights. On the other hand I fear that if the current leaders are removed that power will move to Muslim extremists
much like the Taliban moved into Afghanistan after their internal struggles after getting rid of the Russians. Crafty leaders often use “movements by the people” to gain power and bring in a new type of dictatorship (think Mao in China).
The role of social media in these protests followed the model of the Iran protests two years ago. The “day of rage”
last Friday was planned days before on Facebook and Twitter. The Egyptian government has responded by shutting down all ISP connections to the internet and have blocked SMS messages as well.
Google and Twitter have responded by creating a new service
over the weekend. It is a speech-to-tweet service designed for Egyptians to get the word out in their country. It works by turning phone calls into tweets. Egypt may now try to stop all phone lines too. I find this part pretty remarkable. Granted it was not a huge design task technology-wise because the parts to make it happened already exist, but to see Google and Twitter act so quickly and specifically for Egypt is an important act on their part.
I think governments around the world now realize and fear the power of social media to expose their actions. China is censoring what its people can access about Egypt. I think most governments now realize they can not get away with oppressive treatment of their people without the rest of the world hearing about it through various social media outlets.
Tyrants around the world can try to quiet their people all they want, but when they choose to rise up they can no longer be muzzled by fear and force. It is a new world we live in and I think we have a responsibility to share this with our students. We should show our students how the tools they use for socializing are being used by people around the world to organize their fight for freedom. We should tell our students how new ways to use social media are being invented to support these causes.
How do you talk about these things in your classroom?