After the Iranian elections, the Department of State formally asked Twitter to postpone scheduled maintenance so that Iranian activists could continue to tweet each other and the outside world. The internet will, apparently set you free. Now there’s some evidence that early communication between activists in Egypt was facilitated by Facebook and Twitter. The condemnation when Mubarak’s regime shut down the internet was much more muted. It didn’t stop the protests, suggesting that the internet is, at best, capable of being a tool of freedom but far from a necessity.
There are more than a few reasons why the meme of Facebook revolution is silly, not the least of which being that social networking moguls have neither declared nor proven that a fundamental aspect of their tools is to facilitate freedom. They’ve also proven that they’re willing to bend to the wishes of the state and/or censor content.
Back in October, Malcom Gladwell wrote a thought provoking piece of The New Yorker that goes much further in analyzing why social networking is not the holy grail of activism. If you haven’t read it already, you should now.