When Evgeny Morozov’s The Net Delusion landed on shelves in January 2011, the media was abuzz with word of a ‘Twitter revolution’. Tunisian activists, having spent years fighting Zine el Abidine Ben Ali’s iron rule, had managed to effect more change in a few short weeks than they had previously in two decades, greatly enabled by their use of social media. Egyptian activists had begun to take to the streets to protest the 20-year rule of Hosni Mubarak.

Although, as Ahdaf Soueif warns in the foreword of Tweets from Tahrir, a fascinating and uplifting compilation of Twitter messages sent from the now-famous Cairene square, “the causes were many, deep-rooted, and long-seated’, the long-time activist nonetheless states: I think we’re agreed: Without the new media the Egyptian Revolution could not have happened in the way that it did.”

There is no more perfect example of the problem Morozov describes than that of WikiLeaks, the embattled site that in 2010 was denied service by several prominent companies, among them Amazon, PayPal and Visa, after calls from US Senator Joseph Lieberman to terminate services. In WikiLeaks and the Age of Transparency, Sifry states that the ‘battle over WikiLeaks’ has “delivered a wake-up call to everyone who thought the free and open Internet was already a fact … [While] the Internet has drastically lowered the barriers to entry into the public sphere, it has not eliminated them.”

WikiLeaks has brought the problem into the public eye, but the case studies Morozov references, such as the removal from Facebook of a Moroccan atheist activist group for unknown reasons, round out the issue for those who might be dismissive of the connection.

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