Watching From A Far: Media Consumption Patterns Around the Arab Spring

This study investigates patterns of consumption of Arab Spring–related content using a unique data set constructed by combining archived Twitter content with metadata drawn from the URL shortening service This data set allows to explore two critical research questions: First, were links posted to Twitter (among other platforms) followed primarily by individuals inside the affected country, within the broader Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region or by those outside the region and country? And second, who attracted more attention online: protesters and other non-elite citizens or traditional news organizations?

Our findings suggest that the vast majority of attention to Arab Spring content came from outside of the MENA region and, furthermore, that mass media, rather than citizen media, overwhelmingly held the world’s attention during the protests.