Contextualizing the power of social media: Technology, communication and the Libya Crisis

Laura Morris


At the beginning of 2011, revolution across the MENA region threw into question the potential power of new media to bring about large-scale revolutionary pursuits. In Libya, the correlation between social media usage and social upheavals seemed, at most, tenuous in light of low levels of Internet penetration generally and in light of the state-sponsored Internet blackout following the nation-wide protests there. This qualitative research intends, through content analysis and semi-structured interviewing of key communicators, to decode the realities of how and why people were communicating through the crisis in Libya from its inception and to overcome misconceptions about social media as a stand alone or predominant factor in liberation across the region. What emerged from this case study was a confluence of actions and tools responsible for communication through the crisis, of which social media featured significantly. This paper will further discuss the significance of the convivial relationships of the Internet-based campaigners working towards a ‘democratic’ outcome in Libya and working beyond the limitations of national Internet connectedness. I conclude that there is a great potential for Internet-based networks to support widespread social upheaval within ripe socio-political settings.


Libya crisis, social media, internet, Arab Spring,

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