The Social Network Revolution

No, not “revolution” as metaphor. Here, “revolution” means “revolution.”

In Tunisia’s state of unrest, protesters are using blogs,FacebookTwitterWikiLeaks documents, YouTube and other methods to mobilize and report on what is going on.

The weeks of demonstrations, including the deaths of at least three and as many as 20 people, have been largely ignored by the majority of media outlets until recent days.

The Internet has been the largest source of news about the protests, and much of it has been provided by the demonstrators themselves, despite Tunisia’s strict censorship of the Web.

Tunisia, Internet: Internet is main source of information on crisis in Tunisia – latimes.com

Update: Wired –not surprisingly– has the same take.

Even yesterday, it would have been too much to say that blogger, tweeters, Facebook users, Anonymous and Wikileaks had “brought down” the Tunisian government, but with today’s news that the country’s president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has fled the country, it becomes a more plausible claim to make.

Of course there was more to such demonstrations than some new technology. An individual act of desperation set off the last month of rioting, as a college-educated young man set himself on fire after police confiscated his unlicensed fruit and vegetable cart. Tunisia’s high unemployment rate, rampant corruption and rising food prices added to the anger at Ben Ali’s 20-plus-year rule.

People risked their lives in the street, with some getting a bullet for their troubles, but the internet played a significant role in organizing these protests and in disseminating news and pictures of them to the world.

Tweeting Tyrants Out of Tunisia: Global Internet at Its Best | Threat Level | Wired.com

Having made that point, here is a round-up of coverage on Tunisia.

A fire at a prison in the Tunisian resort town of Monastir has reportedly killed dozens as the country faces more uncertainty after President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fled the nation.

Coroner Tarek Mghirbi said at least 42 people had died in the fire, AP reported.

One witness told Reuters: “The whole prison is on fire, the furniture, mattresses, everything.”

Reports of the fire came amid confusion over who is now running the country.

Tunisian prison fire ‘kills dozens’ | World news | guardian.co.uk

Tunisia’s acting president on Saturday called for “a new phase” in his embattled land, envisioning “a better political life which will include democracy, plurality and active participation for all the children of Tunis.”

Fouad Mebazaa was sworn in as the country’s acting leader Saturday after the country’s longtime authoritarian president and his family took refuge in Saudi Arabia, a flight sparked by days of angry street protests against the government.

Interim leader sees ‘democracy for all children of Tunis’ – CNN.com

Power in Tunisia changed hands again Saturday morning in the aftermath of President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali’s flight from the country as soldiers kept the city under a tight lockdown, sporadic nighttime riots simmered down and clouds of smoke from the burning of a major supermarket hung over the bleached-city skyline.

Power Again Changes Hands in Tunisia as Chaos Remains – NYTimes.com

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