x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 September 2017

Twitter's role in Arab Spring exaggerated, experts find

The Arab Media Outlook (2011-2015), a study commissioned by the Dubai Press Club, found only 0.2 per cent of the population in Egypt used the microblogging site.

Egyptians use their mobile phone to record celebrations in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the popular revolt.
Egyptians use their mobile phone to record celebrations in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the popular revolt.

DUBAI // The role played by Twitter in the Arab Spring was exaggerated, a report on the region's media says.

The Arab Media Outlook (2011-2015), a study commissioned by the Dubai Press Club, found only 0.2 per cent of the population in Egypt used the microblogging site.

"Social media certainly played a role in communicating what was happening during the uprising but revolutions have happened much before the internet was invented," said Santino Saguto, a consulting partner at Deloitte, the company that prepared the report.

"People are using it more and more in the region - this is true. But the penetration is still very low.

"Honestly, we cannot think that this uprising happened because of Twitter."

The report found Twitter penetration in Tunisia and Libya was 0.1 per cent, while among the population of Syria and Yemen, there were no users.

Bahrain had the highest proportion of Twitter users, with 3.4 per cent penetration.

Only 1 per cent of the UAE population use Twitter.

The report also found a public perception that news coverage was improving.

Mr Saguto said the improvement might have been aided by Twitter and other social-media sites.

"The effect of Twitter and citizen journalism has had an impact on all media," he said.

"Otherwise there would be an imbalance of news, between what you read online and what you read in the paper. If that was the case, the imbalance wouldn't last for long."

Matt Duffy, an assistant professor of media at Zayed University, insisted Twitter did play an instrumental role in the Arab Spring.

"It's true that Twitter has a low penetration but to discount its role in the Arab Spring doesn't make sense," Mr Duffy said.

"It has a role in making the media more honest. When journalists get something wrong, often it's Twitter that points it out."

mcroucher@thenational.ae

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