Last summer during the unrest in Iran, I placed a variety of the Twitter hashtags used by the protesters to organize in my RSS feed reader, as an experiment. It was quite fascinating to observe, in real time, the ebb and flow of marches. The utility of social media for such things was readily apparent. For example, the powerful image above was taken in Cairo on someone’s iPhone and uploaded to Twitter.
But then, after a few days, different sorts of messages began to appear. “Security Services have hacked Twitter user X’s account – ignore messages from it” and so on. And that’s the dark side – as convenient and efficient as it is to use social media to organize the positive, it can just as easily be used to spread disinformation.
It’s something I’ve always had in the back of my mind when I try and evaluate how reliable various websites and blogs are -> just who is actually behind this. Especially during the lead up to the Iraq War it seemed apparent that certain sites, if not run outright, were willingly receiving and disseminating information and disinformation from intelligence services.
As for Egypt, expectations should be tempered. As Marc Lynch wisely notes, dictators learn from each other and, when it comes to regime survival, are more than willing to adapt quickly.