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The power of alternative media to empower and spread protest movements has been demonstrated by the importance of social media in popular movements throughout the Middle East. Muhammad Buozizi's public suicide by self-immolation in Tunisia is often characterized as the spark for the Arab Spring, but it would probably have remained an isolated, if tragic act of protest if not for the power of social media. The image of his burning body reached millions via Facebook and Twitter, not to mention hundreds of blogs.
Following this act, protests were organized in almost every Arab country, most conspicuously Egypt, using social media. Facebook was the staging point for the first major demonstrations in Tahrir Square, and social media served as an organizational tool as well as the only means by which outsiders could get a picture of what is actually going on in the streets of Egypt and elsewhere. Alternative media sources are essential to protest movements in countries where the "mainstream media" is controlled by the state. It is a measure of the effectiveness of these media outlets that governments throughout the Arab world limited access to the Internet in response to the events. In fact, it has been argued that it was the loosening of state control facilitated by social media that led to the revolutions far more than the actual use of media to organize protests.
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