Monday, January 31, 2011

Despite Social Media Block, 'Egypt' Surges On Twitter

Observed by: Mr. Alaa Isam

Though Egypt blocked Twitter following the protests that erupted on January 25th, tweets about Egypt have surged in the days leading up to and after the start of the revolution that has rocked the capitol.

According to Sysomos, the number of tweets that contained the words "Egypt," "Yemen," or "Tunisia" increased more than tenfold after January 23rd: there were 122,319 tweets between January 16 and 23 containing these terms, and 1.3 million tweets between January 24 and January 30.

Sysomos also analyzed the location of those tweeting about Egypt and found that a minority were from Egypt, Yemen, or Tunisia. The company writes,

We analyzed 52 million Twitter users, and discovered that only 14,642, or 0.027%, identified themselves as being from Egypt, Yemen and Tunisia. Of these people, 88.1% were from Egypt, 9.5% from Tunisia and 2.13% from Yemen. It is important to note this number probably doesn’t reflect the number of Twitter users since many users in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen likely do not provide their location information to protect their identities.

"#Jan25," a Twitter hashtag that debuted when the protests began, remains the most common hashtag used to discuss the unrest in Egypt.

While Facebook and Twitter have been heavily relied upon to share information about the situation in Egypt, users have also turned to more unlikely social networks to express their support for the protesters. For example, on Polyvore, a fashion website, users from Tunisia, the U.S. and other nations posted images with captions such as "My Heart is with Egypt today," or "Egypt now cut off from Internet plz help spread their cause." Those with access to Twitter have used the social network to search for missing colleagues, like Google executive Wael Ghonim, who disappeared after arriving in Cairo.

Forced to do without Internet access, Egyptians are using low-tech technologies to communicate with each other and people abroad. Fax machines, ham radios, and dial-up Internet connectionshave all been used in place of high-speed networks.


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