Online Activism and the Arab Public Sphere: The Case of YouTube and Human Rights Campaigns

Online Activism and the Arab Public Sphere: The Case of YouTube and Human Rights Campaigns

Aziz Douai (University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Canada)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8553-6.ch010
OnDemand PDF Download:
$30.00
List Price: $37.50

Abstract

YouTube has enabled new forms of political dissent in Arab societies. This article examines the development and rise of YouTube in the Arab world. In particular, it looks at how this video exchange site is invigorating the online public sphere's vigorous demand for political reform and respect for human rights. Specifically, this investigation explores how social networking capabilities have made YouTube an effective asset in dissidents' arsenal among Arab activists. To examine the vibrancy of this fledgling online public sphere, the chapter scrutinizes how activists incorporated YouTube videos to shed light on human rights abuses, specifically police abuse, corruption, and brutality in two Arab countries, Egypt and Morocco. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the new campaigning modes that the Internet and YouTube have facilitated.
Chapter Preview
Top

Introduction

The “Arab Spring” has promised to end the entrenched history of human rights violations in Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Tunisia as well as in other Arab authoritarian states. However, the long struggle against these abuses commenced years prior to the 2011 mass protests as an unprecedented era of virtual politics and activism took shape within Arab societies. At the forefront of these shifts, the Internet and other new communication technologies have been central forces for change (e.g. Seib, 2007; Lynch, 2007; Ibahrine, 2008; Douai, 2009). A few years after its inception, YouTube soon became an important tool for publicizing Arab regime’s human rights abuses both locally and globally. This chapter seeks to understand the strategic role that YouTube has carved in those human rights advocacy campaigns and political reform struggles in Arab societies. Preliminary evidence suggests that YouTube has been effective in highlighting police abuse cases and prosecuting perpetrators. This work thus contributes to a growing body of research that underscores the vital role of communication and information technologies in promoting human rights worldwide (Metzl, 1996; Brophy & Halpin, 1999; Weyker, 2002; Hick, Halpin, & Hoskins, 2000; Ron, Ramos, & Rodgers, 2005).

Within the above framework, Arab citizens have similarly harnessed the site’s video exchange capabilities to expose political corruption, police brutality, and demand political reform in the same way bloggers have countered official narratives and/or media blackouts on local events (Al Malky, 2007; Douai, 2009). YouTube and the new breed of social media have grown more effective as favourite political instruments for several reasons. Some reasons include high levels of anonymity, global reach, technical simplicity, absence of professional pre-requisites, and local/global organizing tool capabilities. Significantly, YouTube is hosting and abetting a new political discourse in which readers vent their frustrations and heap their scorn online before moving offline. The first tremors of this movement toward harnessing YouTube’s social networking and video exchange capabilities appeared in 2007, as videos of police brutality and corruption in Egypt and Morocco were posted online.

YouTube in the Arab world has emboldened an emerging online public sphere and bolstered popular demands for political reform. Arab citizens are appropriating the new forms of mediated communication to call attention to the abuse of the state (Azimi, 2007), invigorating the Arab “public sphere” debate (Lynch, 2007; Douai, 2009). This investigation explores how these social networking capabilities have made YouTube an effective asset in dissidents’ arsenal. To comprehend the vibrancy of this fledgling online public sphere, the study examines how YouTube has helped shed light on human rights abuses, specifically police abuse, corruption, and brutality in the region. The main question this chapter addresses is: How have activists incorporated YouTube in their campaigns for political and democratic reform in Arab societies? To answer this question, it analyzes the reach and implications of four videos publicizing corruption and police abuse cases in Egypt and Morocco. Specific attention is paid to the videos’ political impact and global implications on the struggle for political reform in Arab societies. After reviewing the political impact and history of YouTube, the chapter analyzes how this communication technology has become an effective platform against Arab authoritarianism.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book:
Reset