Social media has played a major part in the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. Protesters used applications like Facebook and Twitter to organize themselves and their movements. Analysts agree that social media puts young people in isolated countries, where communication is difficult, in touch with people in connected countries that have more freedoms, like the U.S.
Once Egypt's leaders realized that social media and the Internet were being used to spur revolution against the government, they shut down Internet and cell phone access across the country. But, instead of stopping the revolution, their actions only fueled protesters' anger.
"I would choose the side of the people over the regime, because for every Web site that can be blocked, people come up with ways to circumvent them," David Keyes, the director of the website CyberDissidents.org, told the NewsHour. "People are extremely resilient, and information is an extraordinarily difficult thing to stop."
Analysts add that even though only 15-18 percent of Egyptians regularly access the Internet, the content of blogs, tweets and Facebook posts can also spread via word-of-mouth to rally an entire population.
"There was a sense of fear in daily life in Egypt. And what I believe the Internet has given to dissidents is the feeling that there are those in the West who care about them, an ability to talk with other people. So, it's a very empowering feeling that nothing can take away." - David Keyes, CyberDissidents.org
"It's no longer Facebook that is going to play a role. I think it's the people's book right now. The people on the streets are trying to dictate their own will. They are trying to voice their opinions to the whole world. They are not leaving their spots the main streets and squares until they see real change." - Mohammed El-Nawawy, Queens University of Charlotte
1. What is social media? What does it allow people to do?
2. What is a dissident?
3. What is a revolution? Name examples of past revolutions.
1. What does the analyst David Keyes mean when he says there is a "sense of fear" in everyday life in Egypt? How do you think having access to the Internet might help alleviate that fear?
2. Has social media ever helped you organize something that involved a lot of people? If so, what? What was most valuable about the social media tool you were using?
3. Why do you think the Egyptian government's Internet shutdown backfired?