Malcolm Gladwell is right: Facebook, social media and the real story of political change

In what is now a well-worn story, Wael Ghonim, a thirty-year-old Google executive, used Facebook to help organize the protests that toppled Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. Today, it’s hard to speak of the Arab Spring without calling to mind the phrase “Facebook revolution.” In early 2011, Facebook had roughly 600 million users. Almost 10 percent of the world population was on it. Speculations about its initial public offering swirled, and The Social Network, a movie telling one version of its origins, was in theaters. With this buzz ringing in their ears, journalists and bloggers were agog over Facebook’s role in Egypt.A day before the January 25 protests, Time asked, “Is Egypt about to have a Facebook Revolution?” It cited the 85,000 people who had pledged on Facebook that they would march. Days after the first protest in Tahrir Square, Roger Cohen wrote in the New York Times, “The Facebook-armed youth of Tunisia and Egypt rise to demonstrate the liberating power of social media.” One Egyptian newspaper reported that a man named his firstborn daughter Facebook.

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