Power of Twitter, Facebook in Egypt crucial, says U.N. rep

Feb. 11, 2011 at 12:55 PM ET

While "Tipping Point" author Malcolm Gladwell and others pooh-pooh the influence social media has on social revolution in countries such as Egypt, American U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice recognized the "enormous impact" of Twitter and Facebook on the world’s stage.

"Governments are increasingly cognizant of their power," Rice said Thursday morning during a town hall meeting at Twitter headquarters in San Francisco.

As well as fielding questions from Twitter users all over the world, Rice praised Twitter and its employees. "I hope you have the satisfaction of knowing that it’s having real time real impact in parts of the world as far flung as Zimbabwe, where I just learned you have 66,000 users, to of course the Middle East and so many other parts of the world."

Much of the 50-minute town hall, however, focused on the role of Twitter and Facebook in organizing protests in Egypt. "The power of this technology, the power of social networking to channel and champion public sentiment, has been more evident in the past few weeks than ever before," Rice said.

Critics of social media’s influence in activism are quick to point out that people organized and revolutions occurred long before the Internet existed. Indeed, the role of real people, bravery and sacrifice leading to President Hosni Mubarak's resignation is more important than Facebook or Twitter. While protests continued even after the Egyptian government shut off access to the Internet, the impact of social media can no longer be dismissed — especially when it’s acknowledged by the U.N.

 via Tech Crunch 

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Helen A.S. Popkin writes about the Internet ... a lot. Follow her on Twitter and/or Facebook.