Twitter is one of the most popular social media apps in the world. People everywhere have become accustomed to getting their daily news in quick, condensed bits consisting of only 140 characters. Research conducted by Portland Communication in 2011 revealed that 68% of people in Africa used twitter to monitor the news within their region. Libya had 3,096 Twitter users and Morocco had 745,620 Twitter users.
During the Libyan revolution, the government shut down traditional media and the Internet in an effort to quiet the public unrest. Individuals took it upon themselves to spread the information about current events. Twitter replaced the previous method, which was word of mouth via telephone. Twitter became one of the most reliable news sources due to Gaddafi’s manipulation of the media. This also led to the rise of social media in North Africa.
Libyan protesters took to Twitter to win over supporters and combat the patriotic propaganda that Gaddafi and his supporters were constantly broadcasting to the public. They spoke the truth about what was going on and basically had a running play-by-play of the events of the revolution. When the government failed to tell the truth, the people made sure that the correct message was out there. A popular site for protesters to visit was libyaFeb17.com, a site where various twitter posts and media related to the Libyan revolution were congregated.
The social media impact during the Libyan revolution was so great that the New York Times was quoted to say, “Whichever side wins this media battle will probably be well on the way to ruling the country.”
Morocco was ranked 5th in Twitter users in 2011. The social media site was extremely popular among younger people in the 20-year-old range. These people will grow older with Twitter and continue to drive the growth of the social media revolution. The Portland research report also showed that most tweets were coming from cities, which makes sense because that is where the most people are, and probably a good amount of the tweet-worthy activity.
The study was conducted once again in 2014. This time Morocco and Libya do not appear on the map. This could be because they are not the most populated cities in Africa and thus do not have as much Twitter activity to be monitored. However, it will be interesting to see how the social media landscape changes as time goes on. It is inevitable that Twitter use will continue to grow and spread throughout North Africa. The link to the study is included here.