Weighing the role of social media in Egyptian coverage

Political events may still be unfolding in Egypt, but analysts of the role of social media in the country’s changing fortunes are already coming to some conclusions.

And they’re increasingly nuanced. Matthew Ingram weighs up experts’ dismissal of ‘cyber utopianism’ in which sceptics like Evgeny Morozov reject the idea that social media played a key role in bringing down the Tunisian government.

It’s a view that gains credence from the authorities’ strategy of censoring social media – the internet has been all-but shut down in Egypt for the past few days. But, Ingram argues, while social media may not cause democracy, networked communication remains undeniably powerful.

Broadcasting and Cable follows a better-trodden path, suggesting that social media is playing an even greater role in Egypt than in previous uprisings in Burma and Iran, and is increasingly used by mainstream news providers. And now that the Egyptian government has shut down its Cairo office, Al Jazeera has appealed for help from bloggers

For examples, see New York Times reporter Nick Kristof’s micro-reporting on Facebook, and the 10 must-follow Twitter feeds on the Egyptian protests recommended by UN Dispatch.

It may not be that citizen-led, though. On Al-Bab, one Egypt-based blogger points out sensibly that most of those protesting don’t have the time or the smart phones to tweet about the revolution.

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