TV, Twitter, Facebook and the Libyan Revolution

The USG Open Source Center summarizes what is known about television and social media penetration in Libya (see below).

Television is light years more important than the internet. Almost everyone has access to television, while only 5.4% have internet (and of course Qaddafi cut off the internet for the past few months).

All those wonderful Twitter feeds on Libya? They mostly aren’t Libyan, given that only 1% of the population uses that service (65,000 persons). The rate of Facebook use is somewhat greater, and most Facebook afficionados are young men under 35 (though to be fair, that is a major chunk of the population).

The fall of the Tripoli television station is therefore much more important for politics in Libya than the restoration of internet service.

Qaddafi is reduced to trying to appear on al-Ouruba, a satellite station based in Damascus, Syria, while the easy-to-get broadcasts are now those of the new Libyan government.

Since the popular uprisings in urban areas from February 17 in Libya did not look different from those in Tunisia and Egypt, I think we may conclude that social media weren’t that central to these revolutions. Chanting in the streets, passing slogans and demands from balcony to balcony and neighborhood to neighborhood, was the real social media.

“Summary of Libyan Media Developments as of 2100 GMT 23 August
Country/Region — OSC Report
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 …
Document Type: OSC Report…

Use of Social Media in Libya

Limited Third-party media studies show that television reaches a far larger segment of the Libyan population than does the Internet. World Bank 2009 statistics indicate that TV reaches 93% of average-income Libyan households; in contrast, Libya’s Internet penetration rate is only 5.4%, according to the website InternetWorldStats, citing June 2010 data.

Libya’s Twitter penetration rate is 0.96%, based on April 2011 data reported by the Dubai School of Government Arab Social Media Report (Vol. 1, No. 2). The same report cited Libya’s Facebook penetration rate as 3.74%, while social media tracking website SocialBakers reported Libyan Facebook penetration as 1.34%, when accessed by OSC on 23 August. Statistics in both the report and the website indicate that the majority of Libyan Facebook users are males under 35 years of age.”

Posted in Libya | 3 Responses | Print |

3 Responses

  1. When this summary states Internet, does it mean include or exclude Internet, Facebook, Twitter etc. via cell phones? I could easily see such penetration being low via broad-band wireline service, but much higher via cell phones.


  2. I agree that the internet did not play much of a role with the average Libyan. Where the internet was invaluable, and I will argue critical, was on the world stage.

    Without Twitter, Facebook, and the internet in general, the world would not have come to Libya’s aid. Without the stories and pictures that flooded out of Libya, we would have been left with rumors only, and no hard facts. The UN would not have been moved by rumors. They barely moved in time as it was, even with undeniable horrors staring them in the face.

  3. Unfortunately you have forgotten to mention that although such a small % have Internet, those that do pass the word on, in person, via phone etc, and this alone spreads the word. Libyas population is small, so it doesn’t take long for the whole country to hear of any news passed on throughout the Internet.

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