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Social media: more power than we thought

There are news stories today of demonstrations building in at least five Middle Eastern or North African countries in the wake of “Facebook” revolutions that brought down the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt. New stories on the web are being updated rapidly in many cases.

In general, the demonstrators are protesting their poverty and want to topple governments that fix elections, rule autocratically and make themselves, family members and friends rich through corrupt rule. Hot spots include:


Monday the government of Algeria announced that it would end the state of emergency that has been in effect there since 1992. Demonstrators have filled the country’s capital of Algiers and clashed with police. Clashes have also been reported in Annaba in the east of the country, according to the Times of India.


Armenian authorities are monitoring Internet traffic looking for such terms as “revolution” and “rally” as the Armenian National Congress (HAK) organizes a rally February 18th, to protest the rigged presidential elections two years ago, according to The Armenian Observer Blog.

The blog said dozens of HAK supporters have been posting the word “revolution” in their Facebook statuses in protest.

The AllFacebook site (not part of Facebook) said the number of Armenians on Facebook doubled in the past six months. Only about four percent of the country uses it, however.


Security forces in Bahrain have used tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters in several villages today. The protesting groups (largely Shiite”) have declared a “Day of Rage” to protest lack of democratic reform by Sunni rulers, according to Voice of America’s web site.

King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa recently gave every Bahraini family $2,600 and larger food subsidies. Yesterday his government also said it would reduce state control over the media industry and expand freedom of the press, VOA said.


Iranian leaders have sent security personnel into the streets to use riot sticks and tear gas on scattered groups of protestors. They also placed under house arrest two opposition figures, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi, according to the Jerusalem Post.


About 2,000 people are demonstrating against Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in the country’s capital of Sanaa. It’s the fourth day of protests there, according to Deutsche Press-Agentur.

Tom Kelchner