How YouTube Is Aiding The Libyan Revolution

As the revolution in Libya continues to rage on, with over 1,000 dead and Muhammar Qaddafi refusing to relinquish power, an end to the conflict hardly seems in sight. The good news is that despite Libya’s media blackout and blockage of YouTube and other social sites, Libyans are still managing to circumvent the blackout to get video footage and images of what’s going on in Libya to the rest of the world.

Janko Roettgers of GigaOM’s NewTeeVee writes that Libya began to block access to YouTube as soon as the protests began last week. But despite this, “Many videos documenting the violence in Libya nonetheless find their way to YouTube. A Google spokesperson said on Tuesday that more than 9,500 videos tagged “Libya” have been uploaded to the video site in the week since the beginning of the uprising.”

How is it that videos of what’s going on in Libya are continuing to be uploaded to YouTube if the video site is blocked? David Clinch, editorial director of news curation startup Storyful, who is working with Citizentube on a project to document the Libyan revolution, told Roettgers, “Most are mirrored.” Some Libyans have occasional access to Facebook or sites like Twitvid where they are still able to upload video footage and images. Volunteers are taking these clips and uploading them to YouTube. Additionally, if you look at a Google Transparency Report that shows YouTube traffic in Libya you’ll see that there was definitely a huge drop-off when things first started to escalate last week, but there is still a tiny bit of traffic, which accounts for at least a portion of the videos tagged with “Libya” that are being uploaded this week.

Libyans are also crossing the border to use the internet in Egypt and Tunisia in order to upload video and photographs to the web. According to Nic Robertson of CNN there are check points set up at the borders and guards are “systematically destroying cell phone sim and memory cards” with pictures and video. But despite these “precautions”, cameras and cell phones are still making it across, video footage in tact to be uploaded to YouTube.

I know that it’s no longer “news” to anyone that Facebook and other social networks have helped revolutionaries organize the massive protests across the Middle East, and that YouTube has served as one of the number one platforms for showing the rest of the world just what’s going on. Similar usage of YouTube and social networks went on back in 2009 during the Iranian elections. But despite the fact that it’s “been done before” I still can’t get over the power of the Internet and citizen journalism as a tool for spreading awareness and helping to achieve massive political goals. History is happening right now, and I think it’s amazing that we’re able to view it all on YouTube.

Now that so many people have cameras built in to their cell phones it’s possible for amateurs to record some of the most powerful footage the world has ever seen and share it globally with a few mouse clicks. Check out some of the video footage of the Libyan Revolution that has made its way to YouTube below and, of course, let us know what you think about what’s going on in the Middle East, and YouTube’s involvement, in the comments.


YouTube, via Citizentube, is playing their part to get as much footage as possible uploaded to the video site.  Text on the Citizentube homepage says, “Raw footage from individuals on the ground offers a visceral window into the situations in Yemen, Libya, Bahrain, Egypt and other countries across the Middle East and North Africa. If you’ve found videos on YouTube that document what’s happening on the streets of these countries, please add the links here.”

What’s your take on YouTube’s involvement in trying to help protesters share their experience with the world? Do you think the Middle East and North Africa protests would be going on, if not for YouTube, Facebook and social media?

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