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Twitter plays pivotal role in Arab world uprisings

Members of the opposition took over a government office building in Benghazi. They were gathering photos and videos. Credit: nytimes.com

By: Kaitlin Kimont, Angela Romano and Samantha Sanchez

The uprisings in the Arab world have furthered our dependency on Twitter and other social media websites.

The common thread between the recent revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Bahrain has been the instantaneous updates and photo uploads to social media sites. Involvement with these sites has been unavoidable when covering or consuming the news of the protests.

The immediate nature of how people have broadcasted the news helps us understand how fast these revolutions are actually developing.

The rising need for citizen journalism has changed the way in which people report and consume current events.

In Libya, international journalists have been banned from reporting by Libyan authorities. From the images and information that has emerged, however, it’s clear the recent events in Libya are appalling.

Here are some of the reports that we have learned through Twitter so far.

Gaddafi has sent his supporters to beat doctors in hospitals and rip blood bags so they cannot treat injured protesters.

Underground prisons have been discovered in Benghazi where an estimated 300 to 1,500 imprisoned protesters have been deprived of food and water for weeks.

Gaddafi ordered his soldiers to rape women, and doctors report that every day injured protesters are coming in.

“We are seeing wounds produced by weapons that I don’t think have been used against human beings before,” the head of the country’s doctors said to a reporter for the Huffington Post.

On Feb. 17, major political protests began against Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s 42-year control over the government. Throughout the following days, the protests have continued to gain significance because unlike Tunisia and Egypt, Gaddafi has taken a more violent approach to the protesters.

His actions have resulted in what can technically be defined as a massacre.

Gaddafi vowed that he will “fight to the death” in defense of his leadership of the country.

Since the protests began and started to gain western media attention, Gaddafi’s troops have used machine guns and large-caliber weapons against protesters in Benghazi, the country’s second-biggest city, and more than 2,000 protesters, including children, have reportedly been killed in the country as of Feb. 26.

And as the death toll mounts, some Libyan officials have warned civilians that the use of chemical weapons is a strong possibility.

Former justice minister Mustafa Abdel Galil told Al Jazeera English that Gaddafi had the weapons and would not hesitate to use them against civilians.

“At the end when he’s really pressured, he can do anything. I think Gaddafi will burn everything left behind him,” Galil said to Al Jazeera English.

In Tripoli’s Green Square on Feb. 25, Gaddafi vowed to crush protesters; he told supporters he will arm them to fight his opposition.

Following Libya through Twitter has been a credible way to keep up to date despite Gaddafi’s efforts to keep sources ignorant of what’s happening.

Those that oppose Twitter usually complain about the mundane way that the average user utilizes the site. However, informing ourselves through Twitter seems to be the most reliable and timely way to obtain information about these uprisings.

“I am in the middle of the people, we will fight, we will defeat them if they want, we will defeat any foreign aggression,” Gaddafi said in footage that was aired on Libyan state television on Feb. 25. “Dance, sing and get ready. This is the spirit, this is much better than the lies of the Arab propaganda.”

Gaddafi’s declaration clarifies his intent to hold onto his leadership even if the cost is the death of more of his own people.

Gaddafi has lost Benghazi to the protesters. Tobruk’s King Idris Square has been re-named Revolution Square by many. Actions like these have given hope to a possible democracy for Libya, even though this has easily been the most violent of the Arab revolutions.

Following Twitter is our way of uniting with Libyans who are fighting for their freedom.

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