As you probably already know, first Tunisia, then Egypt and now Yemen are experiencing popular unrest and, in the case of the first two, full blown revolution. Despite their differences, what unites these movements is their opposition to corruption, the youth of the participants and their use of the internet and social media.
Protesters in Tunisia and Egypt made extensive use of SMS and social media as organizing tools – so much so that the Egyptian government is now attempting to block Facebook, Twitter and Blackberry services.
This is perhaps the first time in history that social media has helped to take down a government, as was the case when dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali was deposed by the people of Tunisia two weeks ago. Social media has given protesters an edge, not only because of the ease of communication and planning, but because their older opponents in power lack knowledge about digital tools.
Youtube has been an inspiring tool as well, for just as quickly as authorities battle protesters with fire hoses, clubs and rubber bullets, these images of authoritarian brutality are caught on video and spread instantaneously over the internet.
Most importantly, these youthful and tech-savvy uprisings are proving that Islamic fundamentalism is not the only alternative to secular authoritarian government in the Muslim world.
In the Western world, both social critics and old curmudgeons alike (and in some cases, this author) have been quick to dismiss digital trends such as Twitter, believing and hoping they will soon go the way of the buffalo, 8-tracks and poodle skirts. But in the developing world, social media has the potential to be more than a novelty.
The people of Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen have spoken: Viva la Revolucion de Twitter!