Safety and Social Networks in the Middle East

Not to beat a dead horse, but I came across a few tidbits last night that I found fascinating. While these pertain specifically to Facebook, in this case, I actually don’t meant to suggest that Facebook itself is the problem, rather, the larger point is whether activists are moving away from social networking tools because authoritarian governments have caught up with their use. We know that, in Syria, social media platforms have been used as a tool of surveillance and capture by authorities. I suspect that Syria may not be alone in this.

Last night, Foreign Policy’s managing editor Blake Hounshell tweeted “#Saudi: “It is a clear message that you cannot organize anything on Facebook. That is why she is in prison” along with a link to this NYTimes piece. Journalist Shabina Khatri responded: “Hence why FB usage has fallen so much since last month in Saudi and neighboring countries – fear!”

Khatri also included a link in her tweet, to an article from Doha News claiming that social media usage has dropped considerably in GCC countries in recent months. And no wonder: Protests organized (or promoted) on the world’s most popular social networking site are ripe for surveillance, without requiring any sort of technological savvy from authorities — all they need is a Facebook account.

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