Evgeny Morozov dismisses the notion:
What strikes me about events in Tunisia is that social media seems to have failed in what many of us thought would be its greatest contribution (outside of social mobilization) - that is in helping to generate and shape the coverage of events in the mainstream media. On the contrary, despite all the buzz on Twitter it took four weeks to get the events in Tunisia on the front pages of major newspapers, at least here in the US (the situation in Europe was somewhat better - and it was way better in the Middle East - for all the obvious reasons).
This is an odd standard. The core test is whether Twitter and online activism helped organize protests. It appears they did, even through government censorship. Wikileaks also clearly helped. So did al Jazeera, for those who see it entirely as an Islamist front.
This is not to deny that many of us were watching the Tunisian events unfold via Twitter. But let's not kid ourselves: this is still a very small audience of overeducated tech-savvy people interested in foreign policy. I bet that 90% of Twitter users are not like that - and that percentage will get worse as Twitter becomes more mainstream. So, if we evaluate it in terms of awareness-raising by exploiting and building off the mainstream media, Tunisia's "Twitter Revolution" (as Andrew Sullivan was already quick to dub it), seems to have failed.
Nobody's citing Foursquare yet, but it's only a matter of time before some journalist finds a few protestors checking into a riot.
We'll soon have more facts and memories to help us assess the influence of new media on this event. I remain of the view that it can help a great deal, but is never, of course, sufficient.
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