The ongoing protests in Egypt are challenging recent assumptions about the influence of social media during times of civilian unrest. It's been more than three days since the Egyptian government took the unprecedented step of disconnecting the country from the Internet in an apparent bid to control the news available to its citizens, and to the outside world. So far, that move appears to have achieved precisely nothing.
Turmoil in Egypt
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Information continues to pour out of Egypt via other communication channels. And the protestors themselves don't appear to be challenged in the least by their inability to Tweet, to upload to YouTube or to log into Facebook to get the latest updates. In fact, it's more than likely that a vast majority of those on the streets in Cairo and elsewhere don't even know about the existence of these social media tools. Or if they do, they don't appear to have noticed its absence.
Social media no doubt played an early role in the protests in Egypt, just as it did in Tunisia.And back in 2009, Twitter and Facebook became vital communication channels in the face of an Iranian government crackdown against protesters. Concerns about the same thing happening in Egypt are almost certainly what prompted the Internet clampdown in the country.
However, once the protests really gathered momentum there's been little need for a Twitter or a Facebook to keep them going (and growing) in Egypt. The protests, if anything, have only become larger in scope and the protesters themselves even more determined. Their ability to gather, to communicate and to be unified in protest, appears largely untouched by the unavailability of the social Web and the Internet.
Apparently, political revolutions don't need a social web or an Internet to thrive. Well, not yet anyway.