The Arab Spring shocked the world with how fast it happened and how fast it spread to other countries. This was helped in no small part by social media and clever individuals with the necessary skills to bypass government restrictions. Initially governments shut down access to sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in order to try and stifle the spread of information and make it harder for groups to communicate about plans. However a group of individuals dedicated to keeping the internet an open and free space for communication, known as Anonymous, heard about how the governments were slowing the dissent of information by blocking access to the major communications platforms, and they stepped in and set up sites dedicated to circumventing government firewalls. Without the aid provided by Anonymous, it would have been significantly harder for the protests to organize and for them to evade arrest, the key pieces for a successful revolution.
Anonymous had a few different strategies throughout the Arab region. Their main two however were denial of service attacks against government websites and supplying privacy tools to protesters so they could come together online and organize without the fear of the government cracking down on them for vocalizing dissenting opinions. This was imperative for getting the revolution off the ground, for without giving people the bravery to speak out no one would have known where to start. There was a fear that people protesting online wouldn’t translate to protesting in the streets but it very quickly did and when the time came for protests to happen in real life thousands of people poured into the streets to voice their hatred of an oppressive government.
There were many articles written at the time of the revolution, all exploring different angles of the fight for freedom ranging from facebook’s influence to the effect of denial of service protests as well as one reporter who fully infiltrated the inner workings of Anonymous on the Western hemisphere. Rebecca Rossen explored how facebook allowed protestors to organize and get the knowledge that other people are suffering just like them. This was imperative for influencing people joining the uprising, there’s strength in numbers and when people see that they will have the bravery to stand up to their government. Quinn Norton explored the websites and tools Anonymous used, developed, and distributed to aid in the revolution. He also infiltrated the anonymous chat rooms and listened in on the people spending countless hours online trying to aid the people in the revolution. These scripts and anonymization tools gave people the bravery to get together and communicate about what they’re feeling. Lastly, Evan Hill explored the online protests which thousands of people across the world took part in, the denial of service attacks to bring down key government websites. These took place around the same time as other silent protests taking place in real life across Egypt.
Rosen, Rebecca. “So, Was Facebook Responsible for the Arab Spring After All?” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 3 Sept. 2011. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
Norton, Quinn. “2011: The Year Anonymous Took On Cops, Dictators and Existential Dread.” Wired.com. Conde Nast Digital, 11 Jan. 2012. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
Hill, Evan. “Hackers Hit Tunisian Websites.” – Al Jazeera English. Al Jazeera, 3 Jan. 2011. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
Student Author: Matt Culbert
Rob Williams, Ph.D., Champlain College Faculty Advisor
Matt Culbert is a third year Computer Networking and Cybersecurity major, with a focus on network security, at Champlain College.