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[liberationtech] Technology as tools: on Twitter and Tunisia, suspected Arizona shooter, Facebook data sharing

Yosem Companys companys at stanford.edu
Mon Jan 17 11:56:22 PST 2011


Today, San Jose Mercury News' Good Morning Silicon Valley says
that technology can be a powerful tool, for better or for worse:

Lest tech types get too worked up over *Twitter*’s role in the uprising in
Tunisia, which forced President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, who had ruled the
African country since 1987, to
flee<http://click1.newsletters.siliconvalley.com/pqqfjmvsccfblkqdbytlqbrswrbfgtwlgymtkgmvhlljqm_fgybyhybbrhj.html>
over
the weekend, there’s this from writer Laila Lalami, who was quoted by the Los
Angeles Times<http://click1.newsletters.siliconvalley.com/qwsnsgdbppntfrwhtvqfwtjbyjtncqyfcvgqrcgdmffswf_fgybyhybbrhj.html>:
“Please stop trying to give credit to WikiLeaks, or Twitter, or YouTube for
the toppling of Ben Ali. The Tunisian people did it.” And “The Internet
facilitates communication, but it alone doesn’t keep people in the streets
for four weeks.” These quotes were taken from the writer’s tweets, of
course.

Was this admonition necessary? Perhaps the “Twitter revolution” label grated
on Lalami’s nerves. Alexia Tsotsis
<http://click1.newsletters.siliconvalley.com/zmbzpsftwwzklqmdkbjlmkgtvgkzcjvlcbsjqcsfrllpmw_fgybyhybbrhj.html>at
TechCrunch, who did a quantitative analysis of Tunisia-related tweets, also
points out that “the critical mass of Tunisia-related activity on Twitter
happened after Ben Ali fled.” But reasonable people are capable of putting
into perspective the role that Twitter and other technological advances have
played in a handful of major news developments lately. The beauty of credit
is that there’s plenty of it to go around. So credit Twitter and other tech
tools for their role, and by all means give the people their due.

There will be studies of this event and digital media’s role in it, and they
should give us a clearer picture of tech’s impact. The Merc’s Chris
O’Brien<http://click1.newsletters.siliconvalley.com/mqnwynpkbbwldvqsltgdqlzkmzlwjgmdjtngvjnpcddyqs_fgybyhybbrhj.html>
recently
wrote about such a study related to last year’s Haiti earthquake. The study
found that the impact of digital tools such as social media and mobile
technology — remember texting to donate aid? — was limited. Still, O’Brien
wrote, “let’s be clear: There is a lot to be excited about here.”
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