After instigating a popular uprising against former President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali earlier this year, Tunisia’s Internet community has now turned its sights to a new online activity – “trolling”.
The idea is simple – each head of state has an official facebook page, right? Well, Tunisia’s social media actors have taken to trolling these pages, posting thousands of comments, often laced with humour or irony.
Playing on their country's status as the birthplace of the Arab Spring, many of the posts express solidarity with growing social movements in the West, such as Europe’s indignados, and Occupy Wall Street in the United States.
Many of the comments are then copied and published on Twitter under the hashtags #trollingobama, #trollingsarkozy or even #freedomoftrolling, and often satirise actual incidents that took place during the country’s popular uprising, which eventually led to Ben Ali’s ouster on January 14.
This tweet, for example, is a reference to a statement made by France’s former foreign minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie. Prior to her clumsy exit from government, Alliot-Marie, also popularly known by her initials MAM, graciously offered Ben-Ali’s police forces the benefit of “France’s know how”, in the form of help in quelling the uprising. Here, twitter user @MHedi offers some similar advice to suppress the country’s indignados movement.
"Following a French police crackdown, Tunisia’s MAM declared, ‘We want to share our expertise with the French’".
Other comments posted on US President Barack Obama’s facebook page put a new twist on popular chants from Tunisia’s popular uprising, casting the US president as Ben Ali, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as the former Tunisian leader’s wife Leila. Other reworked slogans substitute the names of Tunisian cities and towns for American ones.
Screed grab of US President Barack Obama's Facebook page.
There’s even a Facebook page dedicated to “trolling”. It explains that Internet users in Tunisia began this initiative “in support of all other revolutions”. The uprising in Tunisia was largely said to have been born on social networking websites, and as such “the world’s first revolution 2.0 lends its support to all oppressed people on the planet”.