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Social Media Has Far-Reaching Implications For U.S. Diplomacy

February 17, 2011

After being mistreated by a policewoman and ignored by municipal officials, Mohamed Bouazizi, 26, doused himself with gasoline and set himself on fire Dec. 17, 2010, in the Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid. He died Jan. 4.

Bouazizi's act, which was videotaped and posted on Facebook, sparked the revolution that overthrew Tunisian President Zine el Abidine Ben Alithe on Jan. 14, reported.

"The revolution would have been impossible without Facebook," said Mohamed Al-Yahyai. The video of Bouazizi's suicide ignited rage among Tunisia's unemployed, oppressed and impoverished.

Bouazizi's friends then used Facebook to call for protests, and 10 protesters turned into 100 and then 1,000, said Al-Yahyai, a reporter for the Middle East Broadcasting Network's Alhurra Television.

A similar suicide shortly before Bouazizi's received no Internet coverage and provoked no reaction, Al-Yahyai recalled during a Feb. 15 discussion of new media and U.S. government efforts to use it to spread democracy.

Social networks also are being credited for rallying hundreds of thousands of Egyptian protesters who drove President Hosni Mubarak from power Feb. 11. Click here to read more.

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