The growth and popularity of social media throughout 2011 has not shown signs of slowing down, either on a global level or within the Arab region. Globally, Facebook still dominates, with over 800 million users worldwide, of which 50% log in daily, while 350 million users access Facebook through mobile devices
. Twitter, on the other hand, reached over 100 million â€œactive usersâ€ in September 2011
, with an estimated 200 million â€œtweetsâ€ generated each day. Half of these active users log in every day, although not all of them tweet. About 40% of active users log in just to get news and information. Among several topics related to the popular movements in the Arab region, the top ten globally trending Twitter topics in 2011 included the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and the killing of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Globally, the most recent gender breakdown of social media usage (if we take Facebook, as an example) reflects that of real-world demographics, with the number of male and female Facebook users roughly equal.
This trend, however, does not hold in the Arab region, where only a third of Facebook users are women.
This ratio has not changed since the last edition of the Arab Social Media Report
was published in May 2011, despite the fact that Arab women have been active on social media sites across the region throughout the â€œArab spring.â€ According to our findings, social media is increasingly viewed as an important tool for womenâ€™s empowerment in the Arab region. Social media allowed women to take on a new form of leadership focusing on utilizing connections and networks. Moreover, Arab women were not merely cyber activists, but were documented as active participants on the ground, taking part in, organizing, and even leading protests, a fact recognized with the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to an Arab womanâ€”Yemeni Tawakkul Karmanâ€”for the first time ever. Pictures abound of women in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and Yemen taking to the streets and demanding change. Whether this activism will lead to broader inclusion of women in civic and political engagement down the line, or will merely see women being relegated to the sidelines, as has happened in previous Arab revolutions in the 20th
century, remains to be seen.
It is this connection between womenâ€™s use of social media (though meager by global standards) and their political and civic empowerment that this edition of the report will explore.
Among many creative social media civil society initiatives, two prominent examples in the second half of 2011 of women utilizing social media to create change within their communities and countries are Saudi Arabiaâ€™s â€œWomen2Driveâ€ campaign and Egyptâ€™s HarassMap initiative.
Table 1: Examples of Arab Womenâ€™s Use of Social Media in Civic Participation