Social Media and the Decision to Participate in Political Protest: Observations From Tahrir Square

Based on a survey of participants in Egypt’s Tahrir Square protests, we demonstrate that social media in general, and Facebook in particular, provided new sources of information the regime could not easily control and were crucial in shaping how citizens made individual decisions about participating in protests, the logistics of protest, and the likelihood of success. We demonstrate that people learned about the protests primarily through interpersonal communication using Facebook, phone contact, or face-to-face conversation. Controlling for other factors, social media use greatly increased the odds that a respondent attended protests on the first day. Half of those surveyed produced and disseminated visuals from the demonstrations, mainly through Facebook.