Investor Fares Mabrouk returned to his home country of Tunisia from the U.S. 10 days before the country was rocked by the unrest that led to President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s resignation.
The turmoil was the first event in the Arab Spring, and Mabrouk, who’d invited Tunisian bloggers to speak when he was a Yale World Fellow, saw an opportunity to try to consolidate the online community.
“People were inventing ways to bypass censorship,” Mabrouk said by phone from Tunis. But Facebook, which many Tunisians inside and outside the country used to keep up with events, wasn’t ideal for news. “That is not good for democracy,” Mabrouk said. Newsgathering that originated from ground-level witnessing “is not the primary function of Facebook … so it plays a role which is not its initial vocation.”