Previous Debate

Mark Zuckerberg - the new hero of the Arab people?

DATE & TIME: 22 February, 2011 / 12:00 AM
VENUE: Media One Hotel

It would be an irony of history. The Facebook founder, a Jewish-American man in his mid-twenties, is being credited by some for the recent revolutionary movements in parts of the Arab world. Wael Ghonim, one of the organizers of the Egyptian revolution, would like to thank him personally, he said in a CNN interview. And where will the next Arab revolution take place? "Ask Facebook", says Ghonim.

Without a doubt, Facebook, Twitter and other websites have been a factor in the recent events. The January 25 protests in Egypt were organized through a Facebook page called We are all Khalid Said. In Tunisia, activist, blogger and Tweeter Slim Amamou has been appointed to a ministerial position in the post-Ben Ali government. And countless videos of protests in Arab capitals were uploaded to Youtube even when regimes were actively curtailing access to the web.

The Citizens of Egypt fight President Mubarak with Social Media (

However some, like participant and Harvard University Berkman Center research affiliate, Helmi Noman, argue that the role of social media is being over-rated. "The Internet is a catalyst for power shift", he argues. "It works when there is a power shift offline." So, no revolution on the streets, no revolution on the Internet?

What do you think? Join our debate by submitting a video contribution to the panel. Are social media the reason for the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt? Will there be a ripple effect on other Arab nations? How much credit do Facebook and Twitter deserve for the recent events? Is Mark Zuckerberg the new hero of the Arabs? Or is it Twitter founder Jack Dorsey?

The panel

Mahmoud Salem, known on the web by the alias "Sandmonkey", is Egypt's leading blogger and online activist. He was detained during the protests and is now setting up a political party. Daniel Gerlach, editor of Germany's zenith magazine, was in Tunisia during the Jasmine Revolution and interviewed countless activists and protest organizers. Dr. Mohammed Ibahrine of the American University of Sharjah is an academic specialized in new media and Arab societies. Lara Setrakian, ABC News' Middle East correspondent, witnessed the Egyptian uprising first-hand and posted regular updates from Tahrir Square to her Twitter account. Helmi Noman is one of the authoritative scholars on the topic of social media in the Arab world.

You can send in your video statement (no more than 90 seconds). All contributions will be featured on this website.