Arab Spring 2.0?

Historic upheaval in Algeria and Sudan is unlikely to trigger a movement.

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Last week, protesters in Sudan forced the ouster of President Omar al-Bashir, one of the world’s longest-reigning dictators. Weeks before that, sustained unrest in Algeria prompted 82-year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to abort a bid for what would be his fifth term in power. With two entrenched autocrats falling, some international news outlets hastened to draw comparisons to the Arab Spring. However, Predata country signals -- which capture the magnitude of online activity related to a particular nation -- suggest that though these events were momentous for Sudan and Algeria, they neither constitute nor are likely to galvanize a mass movement like the Arab Spring.

In Sudan, the ouster of Bashir prompted online activity related to the country to surge. The only time the digital realm was more abuzz was in 2011, when South Sudan broke away to become an independent nation. The signal is now on a downward trajectory, which suggests the internet’s attention is beginning to move on.

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Similarly, online activity related to Algeria surged as protesters took to the streets last month. The Algeria country signal reached its highest level since January 2013, when al-Qaeda-linked militants seized a gas facility and killed dozens of foreign and Algerian hostages. As the signal shows, online activity related to Algeria has since returned to a baseline level.

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Thus, in both Sudan and Algeria, the digital reaction has been significant, but other events had greater resonance. By contrast, during the Arab Spring in late 2010 and early 2011, Predata signals for Tunisia, Egypt, and Syria all hit their highest levels of all-time. 

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Further, digital indicators suggest it is unlikely unrest in Sudan and Algeria will spill over into a regional movement. Country signals for other North Africa Arab states are all relatively muted: There are no signs of activity in Egypt; social unrest in Morocco related to a self-determination movement in the volatile Rif region remains localized; and despite somewhat heightened online activity and economic grievance, Tunisia shows little signs of a resurgence of nationwide protest.

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Though significant, the upheaval in Sudan and Algeria appears likely to remain localized and fall short of triggering an Arab Spring-like movement.