So just a little background, Ben Ali was the dictator of of Tunisia since 1987, on November 2010, Wikileaks released cables on Tunisia confirming extensive government corruption under Ben Ali’s rule. It included how the dictator’s house was very modern, his ruling family would feed his guests with vast amounts of food despite the country suffering massive financial pressure with many living in poverty.
On the 17th of December 2010 Mohamed Bouazizi being a sole bread-earner, had his vegetable cart confiscated, and thereby immolated himself in the main square.
This set a chain reaction, after the police tried to forcefully quell peaceful marchers this led to a chain reaction on social media, mainly co-ordinated on Facebook and the Western media start to catch wind of these mass demonstrations.
The government reaction for this was censorship, web blocking, stealing passwords and erasing Facebook groups. Despite this, Ben Ali was forced into exile.
These events encapsulate the importance of social media in citizen journalism, without these facebook groups used to mobilise protests and mass demonstrations it would have been unlikely that there would have been enough traction to capture the attention of legacy media. Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter allowed for this organized mobilization and coordination at a speed impossible with any other form of media.