“The role and utility of social networking in the Arab Spring” Abstract The 21st century is being theorized and constructively debated on the most significant changes that correspond to globalization and responses by the global governance. Globalization and financial crisis have served for years as those critical points where in countries and regions should be more intense on policies and actions in terms of human rights, security and responsibility. On January, 2011 every citizen took a great lesson from the Arab world; and every politician might have reminded quickly on what their citizens could be able to do to make governments accountable and taking responsibilities for their actions. This paper’s aim is to provide an overall overview of the regimes that in 2011 passed away, their relationship with their citizens and contribution to an instable Arab world; to seek for an understandable foreign policy and turning points by different U.S governments and their commitment in promoting democracy worldwide; to link all these actions and intentions with the revolution of young people and the role of social media in wide spreading the events across the global network. Keywords: revolution, Arab spring, US interventions, social networking, young activists. Words: 2846 The political environment in Arab World has in decades been recognized for its deficits in terms of liberalism, human rights, freedom and cooperation among the League. In West, perceptions to Arab people were closely linked to their religion and lack of fundamental development. The regimes established in Middle East were paradox for nearly 30 years, co-existing with the democratic systems in the West, liberalization, privatization and free of speech developed in their countries. All these features and “privileges “ of Western people were denied to Arabs, living with the impossibilities, poverty, lack of knowledge and with the most important thing missing, freedom of speech , of ideas and of human being. The will of Arabs took many efforts and demonstrated to the whole world, their strength to make radical changes in the name of society, of their future and rights on January, 2011. On the other hand, it was reflected the de-legitimate nature of those regimes and the dynamics of domestic elements to counter-act for their civilization thus, not being a tool anymore neither to their leaders nor to foreign policies. The three regimes of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, even though part of the mutual system, were significantly differentiated in the way the revolution took place and the different civil symbolic in their region. People were all Arabs and Muslims, but the way they reacted and developed their requirements were not driven in the same way. On January 2011, in front of the world eyes, Arab people network won against the few state apparatus people, fighting neither with bullets nor with weapons. They threw their regimes and spread the revolution by providing two new concepts to themselves; that of being enough “western” to acquire for their liberties and governmental accountability and the one of bringing changes in the whole region, sending important messages to foreign interests. What is important to be highlighted in this paper, lies on the key momentums of Arab uprisings, in terms of the initiative, symbolic, inspiration and efforts to draw up the new regional agenda. Prior to 1990’s, most media ownership in the Arab world lay with governments, and most media functioned under strict governmental supervision and control (Khamis and Vaughn, 2011, p2). On the other hand, governments used to encourage the usage of Internet, in order to boost economic development (Khamis and Voughn, 2011, p3). Out of these three regimes, the Tunisian one was more liberal than the others, by producing that façade of prosperity and modernization. However, to people that was not democratic enough. A new media strategy developed in those countries, thus significantly contributing in three ways; enabling cyber activism, encouraging civic engagement and promoting a new form of citizen journalism (Khamis and Voughn,2011, p5). Social networking and satellites have made possible to people to share their individual views and by doing so, they were able to know and measure the impact of their voices, being no more afraid if they would freely express their ideas. In addition to that, citizens of Arab spring proved to be the journalists of their own society by spreading the news worldwide and documenting their own version of reality (Khamis and Voughn, 2011, p7). The world needed to know the truth of the story, beyond the political and global rhetoric whether those uprisings were a calling for changes or transformation. To completely understand the way the revolution was facilitated by the social networking, it would be better to begin with the differences of these regimes and the different people movement organization. The differences of regimes were also shaped in the different models that U.S Governments in years, used to frame their policies and regional development programmes, by funding and balancing domestic political forces related to their own intentions. Considering the various driven elements of uprisings may help in forecasting the future of these societies in terms of human rights indicators and political systems they will put efforts to establish. As Anderson (2011) has recognized some proper features on different regimes, she differentiates Tunisia from Egypt and from Libya by some circumstances. In Tunisia, the protests were rural-based and the poorest people fueled movement, because they were sick and tired of being denied, ignored and non-respected by their government. The respect they were looking for, lies in terms of responsibilities, active strategic policies to more jobs, opportunities, freedom and access to other part of the world. On the other hand, in Egypt, uprising began by people that were not as poor as in Tunisia, and their revolution date was earlier decided but Arab people inspired and gave strength to each other. This makes also the first big challenge to outside their region, by giving the first civic lesson that domestic energy and people power is much more decisive than the foreign funding programmes to promote democracy and stability. In Tunisia, it was also built a façade of prosperity due to some policies that Ben Ali had liberalized; Tunisian regime had a strong relationship with the official corruption, but on the other hand, labor unions had a very importance in the whole Ben Ali regime. The advantage of Tunisia in relation to Egypt and Libya is the strong bureaucratic infrastructure and well trained equipment which will be also a facilitator of actions that will be taken during transition period. On the other hand, Egypt had planned before the movement and the success of 28th January was unexpected. That was a peaceful uprising and a leaderless movement, due to the will of people to protest against the regime and to not kill their leaders, because that was not a personal fighting, but a revolution against the form of governance. However, in the Egyptian case, according to Anderson (2011), there are very optimistic prognosis to meet the requirements of people and develop the political system that would better responds to their needs and rights. Whatever the political system be, the only thing that matters is the legitimacy by its people. Meanwhile, in Libya the situation is quite different and much more risked, due to the fragmented opposition and the fact that everything should be started from scratch (Anderson, 2011). Libyans should build the system infrastructure, institutions, and the appropriate equipment to deal with the reality. These differences show that Arabs were differently affected by the regimes, but they shared mutual anger and decision in taking their own future on their hands. They were not religiously motivated (Filiu, 2011, p.25) and this is a turning point by people themselves. The social networking revolution gathered all people in one objective; helping them to be organized and supported inside and outside their region. Access to internet was an element that used to divide Arabs from the other part of the world, of global transfers, exchanges, and activities, but it didn’t stop people to dare for, rather became an important tool. More than 1.5 million Tunisians used Facebook, 58% were males and 90% were aged between 15-34 years old (Filiu, 2011, p50). On the other hand, 90% of people had a mobile phone (BBC, 2011). In 2005, Tunisia hosted the World Summit on the Information Security (WSIS), where in local activists and NGO’s were not allowed to attend the WSIS; nonetheless human rights defenders had to use proxy websites to keep track of the repression and counter the official discourse (Filiu, 2011, p43-44). This was one of the parts of façade that Ben Ali used to sophisticate his regime, but obviously, did in front of the global eyes! Figure 1 Google Images from the Arab Spring uprising, 2011 In 2009, the Egyptian population was close to 80 million and 16.5 million of them were using the Internet (Oghia and Indelicato,n.d.). There were 5 million of Facebook users, and 15-17% of active internet users are mostly youth ( Khamis and Voughn,2011, p 4). Mubarak used to think that Internet had neither a structure nor a leader, thus driving a revolution would have been quasi impossible, but he didn’t calculate the efforts of people to deal even with the impossible to retire him from politics. The Egyptian activists had reached out to the international community to educate themselves on new technologies for bypassing state controls (Khamis and Voughn, 2011, p9). Not only in Egypt, but in Tunisia as well, young people decided to include social networking in their plans due to the speed of spreading information; but also because of Twitter and Facebook could reach worldwide networks and everyone could feel and know what was really happening in the Arab world, without the necessity of politicians’ make-up speeches. They decided to handle that revolution by themselves by showing to other parts of the world that they could. Governments tried to step back protesters and activists by shutting the Internet down, and letting them in a whole blackout, but people were on the way of turning their lives point. They all took on the streets in a large number to protect each other and to shape diverse forms of peaceful activism. Dewachi ( 2000, quoted in AHDR, 2002,p89) says that Arabs represent 5% of the world population, but only 0.5% of Internet users. Why the commitment of U.S governments to deliver democratic principles around the world, was not part of huge funds rather to support its clienteles’ regimes? After 9/11, the U.S Government made significant shifts in its policies in order to be re-legitimate in front of the whole world as the global hegemony that can’t be treated as a marginalized factor. (Dalacoura, 2010, p3), hence in Cold War period , the foreign policy of U.S government in the Middle East was driven by three main objectives: containing the Soviet Union, securing petroleum supplies and survival of Israel. During Clinton Administration, the foreign policy was shaped in terms of nation building and democracy promotion, in order to lead the Arabs towards stability, development and democratic institutions. The nature of U.S foreign policies has always been dominated by a Neo-Conservatism approach, where in the very important issue is idealism and hegemonic leadership, by which the West and the East should defeat the non democratic regimes. Clinton administration belongs to a period of cooperation and achievement of significant Agreements in terms of Arab-Israel conflict. The turning point of the U.S government foreign policy lies after the 9/11 attacks. Bush decided to re-establish another form of intervention in the Arab region, and no more by soft issues such as democratization and nation-building (Nautre, 2008, p2). The war on terror began to define actions and programmes; the Arabs were seen as the people of Islam and religious of terror, while this rhetoric was obviously to target the region facilitating the U.S efforts to implement there its strategic plan. The U.S government intervention as a democratic supplier failed due to the fail of Arab spring in 2005 and the changes in agenda after the election victories of Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas in 2006. These two modules in its foreign policy dramatically showed to Arabs that, Bush Administration backed off quickly when results in 2006 did not match with U.S expectations (Nautre, 2008, p5); and after expanding military involvement in Iraq, deploying diplomacy against potential regional antagonists like Syria and Iran, it has also rehabilitated commitments to support autocratic-clients in the region ( Yom, 2008, p5). On the other hand, facts show that during 2002-2005, MEPI ( THE MIDDLE EAST PARTNERSHIP INITIATIVE) received $565 million in operating funds, while $13.3 billion were given to Arab autocratic regimes through official economic aid and military support programmes ( Yom, 2008, p7). It is clearly understood that to keep stable and secure Israel and economic and geo-political strategies in the region, U.S had to compromise with the regimes and supply to them huge funds in order to keep them to power, no matter what Arabs were going through nor the diplomatic meanings of the U.S government lip services. After the democratic promotion rhetoric, efforts of U.S shifted on democracy assistance (Nautre, 2008, p6). The young generation demonstrated their principles and energies to rule and make big decisions for their country. They used the new technology even though isolated and forbidden and to some extent to show that they had enough knowledge and efforts to deal even with the hardest and impossible issues. The Arab Spring 2011 made some turning points in its context re-framing the global policies agenda. The domino effect that occurred from Tunisia to Libya has activated scholars, politicians, activists, international arena, ordinary citizens to conceptualize and build the nation of freedoms. The first turning point on this revolution was the massive uprising and their tenacity to deal with those regimes; the rhetoric and speeches of regime leaders shifted day by day due to their efforts getting weaker and no possibilities were left to discuss with their citizens. This reflected their fragile, de-legitimate political system. Another turning point lies on the Obama administration stances and its rhetoric changed during the uprising event. The lack of U.S credibility and its double standards on foreign policies especially related to the Middle East, faded the importance of U.S government involvement for peace and democracy. People kept hoping that Obama would shift the paradigm and support them in establishing institutions and political system, but the support of Obama to Mubarak ever since the beginning, just kept confirming the economic and strategic interests of U.S in Arab World. As President Obama made his speech on February 11, 2011: “This is the power of human dignity, and it can never be denied. Egyptians have inspired us and they’ve done so by putting the lie to the idea that justice is best gained through violence. For in Egypt, it was the moral force of nonviolence-not terrorism, not mindless killing- but nonviolence, moral force that bent the arc of history toward justice once more” ( Obama, 2011). In this paragraph where he talks about the Egyptian people and their courage, principles, values and dignity, you get a little shocked because: U.S government took the great commitment of democracy leader in the Arab world and everywhere, while on contrary used to fund huge amounts to those regimes and not to the assistance programmes to revival civil society, develop technology and promote freedom of media or individual speech. All the Arab region was targeted and marginalized as the region of terror and that is the benign that all western countries should fight for. Arabs needed their help as the most economic and political powerful state in the world in terms of respect, dignity and citizenship promoter, not its double rhetoric to show off to the global public opinion and in the same time, keep its interests alive. Conclusions and the way ahead. The use of social networking was in a very importance in facilitating and spreading the event worldwide. The Arab spring was based on some characteristic features such as being a leaderless and horizontal movement; activists used Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to share their revolt and the meaning freedom had to them. They were the youngest people, gathered together in the name of their future and families. After the changes that transformed the political agenda of the U.S and other strategic countries around the League, lies the important duty to choose the political system, build institutions and legitimate governments that will provide economic and social approaches in order to rehab the region and go further with the development strategies. The Arab revolution does not stop here; people have to define and structure their legal framework, economic system and prioritize the role of education to improve their skills and generate the equipment of their own region. The role of U.S is pivotal in providing technical assistance and programmes to capacity building. The turning point in Arab world will never let the region the same under the pressure of regimes or denial of human rights. Something changed on January, 2011 and that revolution was the biggest message ever to the worldwide politics and societies. Bibliography Albright, M.a.W., 2005. In support of Arab democracy: why and how. Independent Task force Repot. USA: Council on Foreign Relations. Anderson, L. (2011) The Arab uprisings: a view from the University on Tahrir Square [Internet]. Washington Dc. Available from: [Accessed 6 April 2012]. Dalacoura, K., 2010. US foreign policy and democracy promotion in the Middle East: Theoretical perspectives and policy recommandations. Ortadogu Etutleri, 2(3), pp.57-76. Diamond, L., 2010. Why are there no arab democracies? Journal of democracy, 21(1). Denoeux,G. (1996) The US and the challenge of democratization in the Arab world. Center for Contemporary Arab Studies: Washington Dc. Filiu,J. (2011) The Arab Revolution, ten lessons from the democratic uprising [Internet], USA, Oxford University Press. Available from: http://www.wuploadsearch.com [Accessed 30 March2012]. Kepel, G., 2004. The war for Muslim minds. 1st ed. USA: Harvard University Press. Khamis, S.a.V., 2011. Cyberactivism in the Egyptian Revolution; How civic engagement and citizen journalism tilted the balance. Arab media and society, (14). Lahlali, M., 2011. The arab spring and the discourse of desperation: shifting from an authoritarian discourse to a democratic one. Arab media & Society, (14). Lahlali, M., 2011. Contemporary Arab Broadcast Media. 1st ed. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press LTD. Manhire, T., 2012. The Arab Spring: Rebellion, revolution and a new world order. 1st ed. London: Guardian News and Media. Miles, H., 2005. Al-Jazeera: How arab TV news challenged the world. 1st ed. London: Abacus. Muasher,M. (2011) Arab myths and realities [Internet], Washington. Available from: [Accessed 5 April 2012] Muasher,M.(2011) How to achieve Real reform in the Arab world [Internet], Washington Post. Available from: [Accessed 5 April 2012]. Nautre, Z., 2008. US interests in the Arab world: Democracy promotion by American NGO’s. Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, (4). Oghia, M.a.I., 2011. Ruling the arab internet: an analysis of internet ownership trends of sic arabs countries. Arab media & Society, (14). Ottaway,M. (2004) Women’s rights and Democracy in the arab world. Middle East Series, Carnegie. Protests in Egypt Pose challenge for US policy.[ 2011] [Podcast Radio Programme]. Washington Dc, National Public Radio. 26 January. Available from: [Accessed 4 April 2012]. Sadiki, L., 2004. The search for Arab democracy. 1st ed. New York: Columbia University Press. The White House.(2011) Remarks by the President Obama on Egypt [Internet], Washington Dc: Office of the Press Secretary. Available from: [Accessed 3 April 2012] UNDP, 2002. Arab Human Development. Report. New York: United Nations. Yom, S., 2008. The Dilemmas of American Dmocracy promotion in the Arab world. Yale Journal of International Affairs.