Reading the Atlantic on Facebook in Tunisia

The Atlantic has an interesting story on the role that Facebook played as a central communication node for the protesters in Tunisia and, in particular, the government’s effort to use key-logging software to steal the password of every user in the country — the kind of action that goes a long way toward explaining why Tunisians, for all their relative prosperity, might have had enough of the Ben Ali regime.  The Atlantic stresses that Facebook’s response was apolitical, treating the hack as a simple security matter, but does not connect this to the fact that it is the very apolitical nature of much of what happens on Facebook (or Twitter) that makes it a principal tool for political activists in developing countries.  Websites with a more overtly political focus are easy to target and shut down as needed, while for activists on Facebook it is like a gunman hiding in a crowd: it is hard to take him out without a lot of collateral damage to all the people who are just friending or poking their way through their social lives.  The Ben Ali government could have simply shut down local access to Facebook, but it went to the trouble of trying to steal passwords in an effort to separate the activists from the crowds.  This time, at least, it didn’t work.

Related:

For more about how photojournalists covered the revolution in Tunisia click here; or here for how revolutions get their names.

To see my photographs from Tunisia click here; or here for the article I wrote about Tunisia for the New York Times at the height of the Ben Ali era.

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