Social Media Tips Middle East Balance
Egyptian anti-government demonstrator sleeps on the pavement under spray paint that reads 'Al-Jazeera' and 'Facebook' at Cairo's Tahrir square on February 7, 2011. (Getty Images)
Sometimes hurled in protest, stones in Cairo also spelled out a much more powerful weapon when they spelled out "Facebook."
Following social media's pivotal role in the Egypt revolution, Facebook pages and Twitter groups are now popping up in at least ten countries across the Middle East and North Africa, reports CBS News correspondent Seth Doane.
These sites are rallying anti-government sentiment from Morocco and Algeria, from Syria to Bahrain.
John Palfrey: "The internet has had a coming of age in this uprising in Egypt," said internet expert and Harvard professor John Palfrey.... AND
Foreign governments are trying to catch up.
"Those who clamp down on Internet freedom may be able to hold back the full impact of their people's yearnings for a while, but not forever," said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a press conference announcing U.S. plans to spend $25 million annually to support online dissidents in repressive states.
This afternoon, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called free access to the internet a fundamental "human right."
"We believe that governments who have erected barriers to internet freedom - whether they're technical filters or censorship regimes or attacks on those who exercise their rights to expression and assembly online - will eventually find themselves boxed in," Clinton sa
In Egypt, Facebook, Google and Twitter mobilized crowds and sparked a revolution. That put pressure on not just the government, but on the social media companies themselves. They could lose millions in future business.
"They are walking a tightrope between the freedoms that they mean to uphold but also the local laws where they don't want to be too associated with the kinds of uprisings that might result in them getting kicked out of the country," Palfrey said.
There are questions about whether America has a double standard. Today, prosecutors for the justice department were pushing Twitter to release confidential information in the WikiLeaks case.
Secretary Clinton says that's not a contradiction.
"WikiLeaks does not challenge our commitment to Internet freedom," Clinton said. "The WikiLeaks incident began with an act of theft. Government documents were stolen."
With nearly a third of humanity online there's a new struggle to determine boundaries, where they simply don't exist.
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