Social media and the social movements in the Middle East and North Africa

Farid Shirazi (Ted Rogers School of Information Technology Management, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada)

Information Technology & People

ISSN: 0959-3845

Publication date: 15 March 2013



The purpose of this paper is to investigate the role of social media in communication discourse in the Islamic Middle East and North African (MENA) countries.


By applying the theory of social networks and a method known as critical discourse analysis (CDA) this study investigates the role of social media in the recent waves of popular unrest in the MENA region.


This study finds that social media not only played an important role in citizens’ participation in communication discourse and mobilization, but also that these media activities intensified in part because of the authorities’ failing rationales against protesters, as shown in the four‐part CDA validity test.

Research limitations/implications

This study is limited to a particular time frame covering the recent democratic discourse in the MENA region for the period 2009‐2011. While this research is limited to the case study of the MENA region, the author believes that lessons learned from this case study can be applied to other developing countries across the globe.

Practical implications

Social media tools available via the internet have provided web users across the globe effective tools and services to share and disseminate information by interactively collaborating with each other in digital communities through blogs, social networking and video sharing sites. In this context, social networks are considered to be effective media for communication discourse. The intensive use of social media networks among citizens’ of the MENA region indicate that the internet has the potential to be a multivocal platform through which silenced and marginalized groups can have their voices heard.


While the existing literature focuses largely on deploying Habermasian critical discourse analysis to media discourse within the context of democratic and well developed nations, this paper presents one of the few studies that extends the CDA method to non‐democratic countries. As such it contributes to the existing knowledge and understanding of the mobilizing effects of social media in communication discourse.



Shirazi, F. (2013), "Social media and the social movements in the Middle East and North Africa", Information Technology & People, Vol. 26 No. 1, pp. 28-49.

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