warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Did WikiLeaks And Facebook Bring Down Tunisia's Ben Ali?

Jessika Walsten |
January 15, 2011 | 12:28 p.m. PST

Deputy Editor

Tunisia, near its border with Algeria. (Photo by Dag Endresen via Flickr)
Tunisia, near its border with Algeria. (Photo by Dag Endresen via Flickr)
Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, the Tunisian leader who fled the country after more than 20 years of rule, may have fallen because of WikiLeaks and Facebook.

The Telegraph reports:

Mr Ben Ali may also have been the first victim of Wikileaks. Cables by an American ambassador giving colourful descriptions of the lives of luxury pursued by his family, and the business empire it controlled, were eagerly emailed around the country, despite a repressive system of censorship.

Protests began in the country more than a month ago after the suicide of fruit vendor Mohamed Bouazizi sparked unrest. Activists took to Facebook, creating pages to communicate information on what was happening.

The government was quick to block many Facebook pages and news sites. But that didn't stop the protesters.

The Daily Beast reports:

The current site [of SBZ News] is the sixth that SBZ has put up, Àli says. The government even phished passwords from Facebook and email accounts, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, and Reporters Without Borders reports that at least five bloggers have been arrested.

Yet the young Tunisians have been firing off dispatches all the same—the government’s long-standing censorship policies have trained a generation of people like Àli in the art of cybersubversion.

Twitter has also played a role in the events in Tunisia. 

SBZ News regularly tweeted protest updates and many followed the revolution with the hashtags #sidibouzid, #Tunisia, #Tunisian, or #Tunise.

Egyptian opposition leaders also used Twitter as a means of communication.

Mohamed ElBaradei (@ElBaradei), former head of the atomic watchdog IAEA and an Egyptian opposition figure, tweeted that "Tunisia: repression + absence of social justice + denial of channels for peaceful change = a ticking bomb."

Ayman Nur (@ayman-nour), the leader of the Al-Ghad Party, also tweeted, saying, "From Ceausescu to Ben Ali, I say to those who are frustrated, you must learn your lesson: dictatorship continues to resist; it tries to tighten its grip; but suddenly it falls in the last minute."

Only time will tell who the next victim of Wikileaks, Twitter or Facebook will be.

"In the 21st century things will be different," writes Richard Spencer in the Telegraph. "The internet has brought people closer to their leaders. It is they who will determine their futures, not the ambitions and ideologies of their generals."



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.