Essay On Role Of Social Media In Present Times Crossword

This article is about a British newspaper based in London. For other uses, see The Times (disambiguation).

The Times is a British daily (Monday to Saturday) national newspaper based in London, England. It began in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register, adopting its current name on 1 January 1788. The Times and its sister paperThe Sunday Times (founded in 1821) are published by Times Newspapers, since 1981 a subsidiary of News UK, itself wholly owned by News Corp. The Times and The Sunday Times do not share editorial staff, were founded independently, and have only had common ownership since 1967.

In 1959, the historian of journalism Allan Nevins analysed the importance of The Times in shaping the views of events of London's elite:

For much more than a century The Times has been an integral and important part of the political structure of Great Britain. Its news and its editorial comment have in general been carefully coordinated, and have at most times been handled with an earnest sense of responsibility. While the paper has admitted some trivia to its columns, its whole emphasis has been on important public affairs treated with an eye to the best interests of Britain. To guide this treatment, the editors have for long periods been in close touch with 10 Downing Street.[3]

The Times is the first newspaper to have borne that name, lending it to numerous other papers around the world, such as The Times of India and The New York Times. In countries where these other titles are popular, the newspaper is often referred to as The London Times[4][5][6][7][8] or The Times of London,[9] although the newspaper is of national scope and distribution.

The Times is the originator of the widely used Times Roman typeface, originally developed by Stanley Morison of The Times in collaboration with the Monotype Corporation for its legibility in low-tech printing. In November 2006 The Times began printing headlines in a new font, Times Modern. The Times was printed in broadsheet format for 219 years, but switched to compact size in 2004 in an attempt to appeal more to younger readers and commuters using public transport. The Sunday Times remains a broadsheet.

The Times had an average daily circulation of 446,164 in December 2016;[10] in the same period, The Sunday Times had an average daily circulation of 792,210.[10] An American edition of The Times has been published since 6 June 2006.[11] It has been heavily used by scholars and researchers because of its widespread availability in libraries and its detailed index. A complete historical file of the digitised paper, up to 2010, is online from Gale Cengage Learning.[12][13]

History[edit]

1785 to 1890[edit]

The Times was founded by publisher John Walter on 1 January 1785 as The Daily Universal Register, with Walter in the role of editor. Walter had lost his job by the end of 1784 after the insurance company where he was working went bankrupt because of the complaints of a Jamaican hurricane. Being unemployed, Walter decided to set a new business up. It was in that time when Henry Johnson invented the logography, a new typography that was faster and more precise (three years later, it was proved that it was not as efficient as had been said). Walter bought the logography's patent and to use it, he decided to open a printing house, where he would daily produce an advertising sheet. The first publication of the newspaper The Daily Universal Register in Great Britain was 1 January 1785. Unhappy because people always omitted the word Universal, Ellias changed the title after 940 editions on 1 January 1788 to The Times.[14] In 1803, Walter handed ownership and editorship to his son of the same name. Walter Sr had spent sixteen months in Newgate Prison for libel printed in The Times, but his pioneering efforts to obtain Continental news, especially from France, helped build the paper's reputation among policy makers and financiers.

The Times used contributions from significant figures in the fields of politics, science, literature, and the arts to build its reputation. For much of its early life, the profits of The Times were very large and the competition minimal, so it could pay far better than its rivals for information or writers. Beginning in 1814, the paper was printed on the new steam-driven cylinder press developed by Friedrich Koenig.[15] In 1815, The Times had a circulation of 5,000.[16]

Thomas Barnes was appointed general editor in 1817. In the same year, the paper's printer James Lawson, died and passed the business onto his son John Joseph Lawson (1802–1852). Under the editorship of Barnes and his successor in 1841, John Thadeus Delane, the influence of The Times rose to great heights, especially in politics and amongst the City of London. Peter Fraser and Edward Sterling were two noted journalists, and gained for The Times the pompous/satirical nickname 'The Thunderer' (from "We thundered out the other day an article on social and political reform."). The increased circulation and influence of the paper was based in part to its early adoption of the steam-driven rotary printing press. Distribution via steam trains to rapidly growing concentrations of urban populations helped ensure the profitability of the paper and its growing influence.[17]

The Times was the first newspaper to send war correspondents to cover particular conflicts. W. H. Russell, the paper's correspondent with the army in the Crimean War, was immensely influential[18] with his dispatches back to England.

In other events of the nineteenth century, The Times opposed the repeal of the Corn Laws until the number of demonstrations convinced the editorial board otherwise, and only reluctantly supported aid to victims of the Irish Potato Famine. It enthusiastically supported the Great Reform Bill of 1832, which reduced corruption and increased the electorate from 400,000 people to 800,000 people (still a small minority of the population). During the American Civil War, The Times represented the view of the wealthy classes, favouring the secessionists, but it was not a supporter of slavery.

The third John Walter, the founder's grandson, succeeded his father in 1847. The paper continued as more or less independent, but from the 1850s The Times was beginning to suffer from the rise in competition from the penny press, notably The Daily Telegraph and The Morning Post.

During the 19th century, it was not infrequent for the Foreign Office to approach The Times and ask for continental intelligence, which was often superior to that conveyed by official sources.[citation needed]

1890 to 1981[edit]

The Times faced financial extinction in 1890 under Arthur Fraser Walter, but it was rescued by an energetic editor, Charles Frederic Moberly Bell. During his tenure (1890–1911), The Times became associated with selling the Encyclopædia Britannica using aggressive American marketing methods introduced by Horace Everett Hooper and his advertising executive, Henry Haxton. Due to legal fights between the Britannica's two owners, Hooper and Walter Montgomery Jackson, The Times severed its connection in 1908 and was bought by pioneering newspaper magnate, Alfred Harmsworth, later Lord Northcliffe.

In editorials published on 29 and 31 July 1914, Wickham Steed, the Times's Chief Editor, argued that the British Empire should enter World War I.[19] On 8 May 1920, also under the editorship of Steed, The Times in an editorial endorsed the anti-Semitic fabrication The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion as a genuine document, and called Jews the world's greatest danger. In the leader entitled "The Jewish Peril, a Disturbing Pamphlet: Call for Inquiry", Steed wrote about The Protocols of the Elders of Zion:

What are these 'Protocols'? Are they authentic? If so, what malevolent assembly concocted these plans and gloated over their exposition? Are they forgery? If so, whence comes the uncanny note of prophecy, prophecy in part fulfilled, in part so far gone in the way of fulfillment?".[20]

The following year, when Philip Graves, the Constantinople (modern Istanbul) correspondent of The Times, exposed The Protocols as a forgery, The Times retracted the editorial of the previous year.

In 1922, John Jacob Astor, son of the 1st Viscount Astor, bought The Times from the Northcliffe estate. The paper gained a measure of notoriety in the 1930s with its advocacy of German appeasement; editor Geoffrey Dawson was closely allied with those in the government who practised appeasement, most notably Neville Chamberlain. Candid news reports by Norman Ebbut from Berlin that warned of warmongering were rewritten in London to support the appeasement policy.[21][22]

Kim Philby, a double agent with primary allegiance to the Soviet Union, was a correspondent for the newspaper in Spain during the Spanish Civil War of the late 1930s. Philby was admired for his courage in obtaining high-quality reporting from the front lines of the bloody conflict. He later joined British Military Intelligence (MI6) during World War II, was promoted into senior positions after the war ended, and defected to the Soviet Union when discovery was inevitable in 1963.[23]

Between 1941 and 1946, the left-wing British historian E. H. Carr was Assistant Editor. Carr was well known for the strongly pro-Soviet tone of his editorials.[24] In December 1944, when fighting broke out in Athens between the Greek Communist ELAS and the British Army, Carr in a Timesleader sided with the Communists, leading Winston Churchill to condemn him and the article in a speech to the House of Commons.[25] As a result of Carr's editorial, The Times became popularly known during that stage of World War II as "the threepenny Daily Worker" (the price of the Communist Party's Daily Worker being one penny).[26]

On 3 May 1966 it resumed printing news on the front page – previously the front page had been given over to small advertisements, usually of interest to the moneyed classes in British society. Also in 1966, the Royal Arms, which had been a feature of the newspaper's masthead since its inception, was abandoned.[27] In 1967 members of the Astor family sold the paper to Canadian publishing magnate Roy Thomson. His Thomson Corporation brought it under the same ownership as The Sunday Times to form Times Newspapers Limited.

An industrial dispute prompted the management to shut the paper for nearly a year from 1 December 1978 to 12 November 1979.[28]

The Thomson Corporation management were struggling to run the business due to the 1979 energy crisis and union demands. Management sought a buyer who was in a position to guarantee the survival of both titles, and had the resources and was committed to funding the introduction of modern printing methods.

Several suitors appeared, including Robert Maxwell, Tiny Rowland and Lord Rothermere; however, only one buyer was in a position to meet the full Thomson remit, Australian media magnate Rupert Murdoch. Robert Holmes à Court, another Australian magnate had previously tried to buy The Times in 1980.

From 1981[edit]

In 1981, The Times and The Sunday Times were bought from Thomson by Rupert Murdoch's News International.[29] The acquisition followed three weeks of intensive bargaining with the unions by company negotiators John Collier and Bill O'Neill. The Royal Arms was reintroduced to the masthead at about this time, but whereas previously it had been that of the reigning monarch, it would now be that of the House of Hanover, who were on the throne when the newspaper was founded.

After 14 years as editor, William Rees-Mogg resigned upon completion of the change of ownership.[30] Murdoch began to make his mark on the paper by appointing Harold Evans as his replacement.[31] One of his most important changes was the introduction of new technology and efficiency measures. Between March 1981 and May 1982, following agreement with print unions, the hot-metal Linotype printing process used to print The Times since the 19th century was phased out and replaced by computer input and photo-composition. This allowed print room staff at The Times and The Sunday Times to be reduced by half. However, direct input of text by journalists ("single-stroke" input) was still not achieved, and this was to remain an interim measure until the Wapping dispute of 1986, when The Times moved from New Printing House Square in Gray's Inn Road (near Fleet Street) to new offices in Wapping.[32][33]

Robert Fisk,[34] seven times British International Journalist of the Year,[35] resigned as foreign correspondent in 1988 over what he saw as "political censorship" of his article on the shooting-down of Iran Air Flight 655 in July 1988. He wrote in detail about his reasons for resigning from the paper due to meddling with his stories, and the paper's pro-Israel stance.[36]

In June 1990 The Times ceased its policy of using courtesy titles ("Mr", "Mrs", or "Miss" prefixes) for living persons before full names on first reference, but it continues to use them before surnames on subsequent references. The more formal style is now confined to the "Court and Social" page, though "Ms" is now acceptable in that section, as well as before surnames in news sections.

In November 2003, News International began producing the newspaper in both broadsheet and tabloid sizes. On 13 September 2004, the weekday broadsheet was withdrawn from sale in Northern Ireland. Since 1 November 2004, the paper has been printed solely in tabloid format.

On 6 June 2005, The Times redesigned its Letters page, dropping the practice of printing correspondents' full postal addresses. Published letters were long regarded as one of the paper's key constituents. Author/solicitor David Green of Castle Morris Pembrokeshire has had more letters published on the main letters page than any other known contributor – 158 by 31 January 2008. According to its leading article "From Our Own Correspondents", the reason for removal of full postal addresses was to fit more letters onto the page.

In a 2007 meeting with the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications, which was investigating media ownership and the news, Murdoch stated that the law and the independent board prevented him from exercising editorial control.[37]

In May 2008 printing of The Times switched from Wapping to new plants at Waltham Cross in Hertfordshire, and Merseyside and Glasgow, enabling the paper to be produced with full colour on every page for the first time.

On 26 July 2012, to coincide with the official start of the London 2012 Olympics and the issuing of a series of souvenir front covers, The Times added the suffix "of London" to its masthead.[38]

Content[edit]

The Times features news for the first half of the paper, the Opinion/Comment section begins after the first news section with world news normally following this. The business pages begin on the centre spread, and are followed by The Register, containing obituaries, Court & Social section, and related material. The sport section is at the end of the main paper. In April 2016 the cover price of The Times became £1.40 on weekdays and £1.50 on Saturdays.[39]

Times2[edit]

The Times's main supplement, every day, is the times2, featuring various lifestyle columns. It was discontinued on 1 March 2010 but reintroduced on 11 October 2010 after discontinuation was criticised. Its regular features include a puzzles section called Mind Games. Its previous incarnation began on 5 September 2005, before which it was called T2 and previously Times 2. Regular features include columns by a different columnist each weekday. There was a column by Marcus du Sautoy each Wednesday, for example. The back pages are devoted to puzzles and contain sudoku, "Killer Sudoku", "KenKen", word polygon puzzles, and a crossword simpler and more concise than the main "Times Crossword".

The supplement contains arts and lifestyle features, TV and radio listings and reviews.

The Game[edit]

The Game is included in the newspaper on Mondays, and details all the weekend's football activity (Premier League and Football LeagueChampionship, League One and League Two.) The Scottish edition of The Game also includes results and analysis from Scottish Premier League games. During the FIFA World Cup and UEFA Euros there is a daily supplement of The Game. During the summer where there is no international tournament there are no editions of this feature and the transfer window highlights are in the daily Sports section.

Saturday supplements[edit]

The Saturday edition of The Times contains a variety of supplements. These supplements were relaunched in January 2009 as: Sport, Weekend (including travel and lifestyle features), Saturday Review (arts, books, TV listings and ideas), The Times Magazine (columns on various topics), and Playlist (an entertainment listings guide).

The Times Magazine features columns touching on various subjects such as celebrities, fashion and beauty, food and drink, homes and gardens or simply writers' anecdotes. Notable contributors include Giles Coren, Food and Drink Writer of the Year in 2005 and Nadiya Hussain, winner of BBC's The Great British Bake Off.

Online presence[edit]

The Times and The Sunday Times have had an online presence since March 1999, originally at the-times.co.uk and sunday-times.co.uk, and later at timesonline.co.uk.[40] There are now two websites: thetimes.co.uk is aimed at daily readers, and the thesundaytimes.co.uk site at providing weekly magazine-like content. There are also iPad and Android editions of both newspapers. Since July 2010, News UK has required readers who do not subscribe to the print edition to pay £2 per week to read The Times and The Sunday Times online.[41]

The Times Digital Archive (1785–2008) is freely accessible via Gale databases to readers affiliated with subscribing academic, public, and school libraries.

Visits to the websites have decreased by 87% since the paywall was introduced, from 21 million unique users per month to 2.7 million.[42] In April 2009, the timesonline site had a readership of 750,000 readers per day.[43] In October 2011 there were around 111,000 subscribers to The Times' digital products.[44]

Ownership[edit]

The Times has had the following eight owners since its foundation in 1785:

Readership[edit]

At the time of Harold Evans' appointment as editor in 1981, The Times had an average daily sale of 282,000 copies in comparison to the 1.4 million daily sales of its traditional rival The Daily Telegraph.[31] By November 2005 The Times sold an average of 691,283 copies per day, the second-highest of any British "quality" newspaper (after The Daily Telegraph, which had a circulation of 903,405 copies in the period), and the highest in terms of full-rate sales.[45] By March 2014, average daily circulation of The Times had fallen to 394,448 copies,[10] compared to The Daily Telegraph's 523,048,[46] with the two retaining respectively the second-highest and highest circulations among British "quality" newspapers. In contrast The Sun, the highest-selling "tabloid" daily newspaper in the United Kingdom, sold an average of 2,069,809 copies in March 2014,[47] and the Daily Mail, the highest-selling "middle market" British daily newspaper, sold an average of 1,708,006 copies in the period.[48]

The Sunday Times has a significantly higher circulation than The Times, and sometimes outsells The Sunday Telegraph. In May 2017 The Times had a circulation of 445,737[49] and The Sunday Times of 775,188 .[50]

In a 2009 national readership survey The Times was found to have the highest number of ABC1 25–44 readers and the largest numbers of readers in London of any of the "quality" papers.[51]

Typeface[edit]

[T]he various typefaces used before the introduction (The) Times New Roman [sic] didn't really have a formal name.

They were a suite of types originally made by Miller and Co. (later Miller & Richards) in Edinburgh around 1813, generally referred to as "modern". When The Times began using Monotype (and other hot-metal machines) in 1908, this design was remade by Monotype for its equipment. As near as I can tell, it looks like Monotype Series no. 1 — Modern (which was based on a Miller & Richards typeface) — was what was used up until 1932.

— Dan Rhatigan, type director[52]

In 1908, The Times started using the Monotype Modern typeface.[53]

The Times commissioned the seriftypefaceTimes New Roman, created by Victor Lardent at the English branch of Monotype, in 1931.[54] It was commissioned after Stanley Morison had written an article criticizing The Times for being badly printed and typographically antiquated.[55] The font was supervised by Morison and drawn by Victor Lardent, an artist from the advertising department of The Times. Morison used an older font named Plantin as the basis for his design, but made revisions for legibility and economy of space. Times New Roman made its debut in the issue of 3 October 1932.[56] After one year, the design was released for commercial sale. The Times stayed with Times New Roman for 40 years, but new production techniques and the format change from broadsheet to tabloid in 2004 have caused the newspaper to switch font five times since 1972. However, all the new fonts have been variants of the original New Roman font:

  • Times Europa was designed by Walter Tracy in 1972 for The Times, as a sturdier alternative to the Times font family, designed for the demands of faster printing presses and cheaper paper. The typeface features more open counter spaces.
  • Times Roman replaced Times Europa on 30 August 1982.[57]
  • Times Millennium was made in 1991,[57] drawn by Gunnlaugur Briem on the instructions of Aurobind Patel, composing manager of News International.
  • Times Classic first appeared in 2001.[58] Designed as an economical face by the British type team of Dave Farey and Richard Dawson, it took advantage of the new PC-based publishing system at the newspaper, while obviating the production shortcomings of its predecessor Times Millennium. The new typeface included 120 letters per font. Initially the family comprised ten fonts, but a condensed version was added in 2004.
  • Times Modern was unveiled on 20 November 2006, as the successor of Times Classic.[57] Designed for improving legibility in smaller font sizes, it uses 45-degree angled bracket serifs. The font was published by Elsner + Flake as EF Times Modern; it was designed by Research Studios, led by Ben Preston (deputy editor of The Times) and designer Neville Brody.[59]

Political allegiance[edit]

Historically, the paper was not overtly pro-Tory or Whig, but has been a long time bastion of the English Establishment and empire. The Times adopted a stance described as "peculiarly detached" at the 1945 general election; although it was increasingly critical of the Conservative Party's campaign, it did not advocate a vote for any one party.[60] However, the newspaper reverted to the Tories for the next election five years later. It supported the Conservatives for the subsequent three elections, followed by support for both the Conservatives and the Liberal Party for the next five elections, expressly supporting a Con-Lib coalition in 1974. The paper then backed the Conservatives solidly until 1997, when it declined to make any party endorsement but supported individual (primarily Eurosceptic) candidates.[61]

For the 2001 general electionThe Times declared its support for Tony Blair's Labour government, which was re-elected by a landslide (although not as large as in 1997). It supported Labour again in 2005, when Labour achieved a third successive win, though with a reduced majority.[62] In 2004, according to MORI, the voting intentions of its readership were 40% for the Conservative Party, 29% for the Liberal Democrats, and 26% for Labour.[63] For the 2010 general election, the newspaper declared its support for the Conservatives once again; the election ended in the Tories taking the most votes and seats but having to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats in order to form a government as they had failed to gain an overall majority.[64]

This makes it the most varied newspaper in terms of political support in British history.[65] Some columnists in The Times are connected to the Conservative Party such as Daniel Finkelstein, Tim Montgomerie, Matthew Parris and Matt Ridley, but there are also columnists connected to the Labour Party such as David Aaronovitch, Philip Collins, and Jenni Russell.

The Times occasionally makes endorsements for foreign elections. In November 2012, it endorsed a second term for Barack Obama although it also expressed reservations about his foreign policy.[66]

[edit]

The Times, along with the British Film Institute, sponsors "The Times" bfiLondon Film Festival.[67] It also sponsors the Cheltenham Literature Festival and the Asia House Festival of Asian Literature at Asia House, London. In addition, the newspaper has previously acted as a media partner for Teach First, notably at their Impact Conference in 2017.

Notable people[edit]

Editors[edit]

Notable columnists and journalists[edit]

Related publications[edit]

The Times, Ireland edition[edit]

An Irishdigital edition of the paper was launched in September 2015 at TheTimes.ie.[71][72] A print edition was launched in June 2017, replacing the international edition previously distributed in Ireland.[73]

Times Literary Supplement[edit]

Main article: The Times Literary Supplement

The Times Literary Supplement (TLS) first appeared in 1902 as a supplement to The Times, becoming a separately paid-for weekly literature and society magazine in 1914.[74] The TLS is owned and published by News International and co-operates closely with The Times, with its online version hosted on The Times website, and its editorial offices based in Times House, Pennington Street, London.

The Times Science Review[edit]

Main article: The Times Science Review

Between 1951 and 1966 The Times published a separately paid-for quarterly science review, The Times Science Review.[citation needed]

The Times started a new, free, monthly science magazine, Eureka, in October 2009. The magazine closed in October 2012.

Times Atlases[edit]

Times Atlases have been produced since 1895. They are currently produced by the Collins Bartholomew imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. The flagship product is The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World.

The Sunday Times Travel Magazine[edit]

This 164-page monthly magazine is sold separately from the newspaper of record and is Britain's best-selling travel magazine. The first issue of The Sunday Times Travel Magazine was in 2003, and it includes news, features and insider guides.

Times Higher Education[edit]

Main article: Times Higher Education

Started in 1971, it was a pioneer in evaluating tertiary education, and has grown to be one of the most respected for its national and world rankings.

In fiction[edit]

In the dystopian future world of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Times has been transformed into the organ of the totalitarian ruling party, its editorials—of which several are quoted in the book—reflecting Big Brother's pronouncements.

Rex Stout's fictional detective Nero Wolfe is described as fond of solving the London Times'crossword puzzle at his New York home, in preference to those of American papers.

In the James Bond series by Ian Fleming, James Bond, reads The Times. As described by Fleming in From Russia, with Love: "The Times was the only paper that Bond ever read."[75]

In The Wombles, Uncle Bulgaria read The Times and asked for the other Wombles to bring him any copies that they found amongst the litter. The newspaper played a central role in the episode Very Behind the Times (Series 2, Episode 12).

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^Katherine Rushton "John Witherow named acting editor of The Times as News International eyes merger", telegraph.co.uk, 18 January 2013
  2. ^"ABCs: Increased bulks help Telegraph become only UK newspaper to increase circulation in November". Press Gazette. Retrieved 5 February 2018. 
  3. ^Allan Nevins, "American Journalism and Its Historical Treatment", Journalism Quarterly (1959) 36#4 pp 411-22
  4. ^"London Times: "Caster Semenya and the middle sex" | OII Australia – Intersex Australia". Oii.org.au. 20 November 2009. Retrieved 8 April 2014. 
  5. ^"London Times posts digital subs rise". AdNews. 4 July 2011. Retrieved 8 April 2014. 
  6. ^"Sea Shepherd Australia :: The London Times Gets It Wrong". Seashepherd.org.au. 9 February 2007. Retrieved 8 April 2014. 
  7. ^Amy Hubbard (19 July 2013). "Royal baby watch: Kate, William head to London; media say hallelujah". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 8 April 2014. 
  8. ^"Sea Shepherd heading to the Mediterranean to protect tuna". timesofmalta.com. 24 January 2010. Retrieved 8 April 2014. 
  9. ^"Times' editorial page calls for intervention to save Winehouse | Toronto Star". Thestar.com. 26 January 2008. Retrieved 8 April 2014. 
  10. ^ abc"Print ABCs: Seven UK national newspapers losing print sales at more than 10 per cent year on year". Press Gazette. Retrieved 28 January 2017. 
  11. ^Pfanner, Eric (27 May 2006). "Times of London to Print Daily U.S. Edition". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 November 2008. 
  12. ^"The Times Digital Archive". Gale Cengage Learning. Retrieved 28 January 2017. 
  13. ^Bingham, Adrian. "The Times Digital Archive, 1785–2006 (Gale Cengage)," English Historical Review (2013) 128#533 pp: 1037-1040. doi:10.1093/ehr/cet144
  14. ^Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 11 September 2016. 
  15. ^W. David Sloan, Lisa Mullikin Parcell (2002). American Journalism: History, Principles, Practices: An Historical Reader for Students and Professionals. McFarland & Co. ISBN 0-7864-1371-9.
Front page of The Times from 4 December 1788
The Times cover (5 June 2013)

Soon Ghonim and his friends used Facebook to crowd-source ideas, and “the page became the most followed page in the Arab world. … Social media was crucial for this campaign. It helped a decentralized movement arise. It made people realize that they were not alone. And it made it impossible for the regime to stop it.”

Ghonim was eventually tracked down in Cairo by Egyptian security services, beaten and then held incommunicado for 11 days. But three days after he was freed, the millions of protesters his Facebook posts helped to galvanize brought down Mubarak’s regime.

Alas, the euphoria soon faded, said Ghonim, because “we failed to build consensus, and the political struggle led to intense polarization.” Social media, he noted, “only amplified” the polarization “by facilitating the spread of misinformation, rumors, echo chambers and hate speech. The environment was purely toxic. My online world became a battleground filled with trolls, lies, hate speech.”

Supporters of the army and the Islamists used social media to smear each other, while the democratic center, which Ghonim and so many others occupied, was marginalized. Their revolution was stolen by the Muslim Brotherhood and, when it failed, by the army, which then arrested many of the secular youths who first powered the revolution. The army has its own Facebook page to defend itself.

“It was a moment of defeat,” said Ghonim. “I stayed silent for more than two years, and I used the time to reflect on everything that happened.”

Here is what he concluded about social media today: “First, we don’t know how to deal with rumors. Rumors that confirm people’s biases are now believed and spread among millions of people.” Second, “We tend to only communicate with people that we agree with, and thanks to social media, we can mute, un-follow and block everybody else. Third, online discussions quickly descend into angry mobs. … It’s as if we forget that the people behind screens are actually real people and not just avatars.

“And fourth, it became really hard to change our opinions. Because of the speed and brevity of social media, we are forced to jump to conclusions and write sharp opinions in 140 characters about complex world affairs. And once we do that, it lives forever on the Internet.”

Fifth, and most crucial, he said, “today, our social media experiences are designed in a way that favors broadcasting over engagements, posts over discussions, shallow comments over deep conversations. … It’s as if we agreed that we are here to talk at each other instead of talking with each other.”

Ghonim has not given up. He and a few friends recently started a website, Parlio.com, to host intelligent, civil conversations about controversial and often heated issues, with the aim of narrowing gaps, not widening them. (I participated in a debate on Parlio and found it engaging and substantive.)

“Five years ago,” concluded Ghonim, “I said, ‘If you want to liberate society, all you need is the Internet.’ Today I believe if we want to liberate society, we first need to liberate the Internet.”

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