The Middle East was a hot topic in news media this past week, as Egyptians voted, the Arab League sanctioned Syria, and another mysterious blast was reported in Iran.The estimated 500,000 Egyptians on Twitter made significant noise on social media as they cast ballots in the first election since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster last February. In the screenshot from Trendsmap.com below, taken in the hours after polling stations opened on Monday, Israel, Jordan and Syria could hardly be seen beneath the trends, hashtags and mentions coming out of Cairo.
By the day after the first round of elections began, however, Twitter noise from Jerusalem, Damascus and Beirut could be “heard” again. Standard geographical trends stood out, including #israel, #palestine, #amman, #lebanon, #beirut and #syria.Tel Aviv Twitterers, however, were tweeting stories about the Iranian students who stormed two British embassy compounds in Tehran on Tuesday, with the tags #iran and #embassy the most-seen in the Gush Dan area. Users were also talking about four #rockets fired from #Lebanon into the Western Galilee earlier the same day.On JPost.com, as in previous weeks, readers viewed more stories on the Iranian threat than on any other topic, including Egypt’s steps towards democracy and ongoing violence in Syria. Four of the five most-read stories related to the Islamic Republic.JPost Top Five most-read stories: 1. Iran says 150,000 missiles pointed at Israel2. 'Iran CIA agent arrests linked to missile testing'3. Yatom: Strike fallout could never be as bad as nuclear Iran4. 'J'lem Report' columnist sexually assaulted by Cairo police5. 'Iran would hit Israel's nuclear facilities if attacked'On the talkback forums, JPost readers were commenting on a more diverse range of stories, including Palestinian unity efforts and the Palestinian Authority's use of US funds. As is often the case, Jerusalem Post Senor Contributing Editor Caroline Glick’s column also stirred up conversation.JPost Top Five most-active threads: 1. Yatom: Strike fallout could never be as bad as nuclear Iran2. Congressmen seek probe into PA use of US funds3. Iran says 150,000 missiles pointed at Israel4. Column One: Calling things by their names5. Hamas: Israeli threats won't stop unity gov'tOn local matters, JPost readers were united with each other but not necessarily with the consensus in Israel. Sixty percent of respondents in a recent poll voiced support for keeping “foreign interference out of Israel and keeping the press honest” via recently submitted Knesset bills which would limit donations from foreign governments and international organizations to NGOs. The survey was taken after hundreds rallied on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard against the proposed legislation. In the same poll, however, 18% of respondents agreed with left-wing politicians and organizations and some ministers in the coalition, who said that the measures would limit freedom of expression.
And to wrap up this week’s Crunch, some Middle East-flavored social media stats, courtesy of a selection of comScore surveys and reports.• Mubarak was the second-highest news topic trending on Twitter in the first half of 2011, coming in after the H1N1 swine flu.• In the same period, Cairo came third, and Libya was the seventh highest trend.• The Middle East and Africa take up 9.1% of social media visits worldwide, and 11.2% of minutes spent on social media sites.• Israel ranked sixth in a list of the top 10 markets penetrated by Facebook by percentage of population. According to the list, the social network giant reaches 88.6% of the Israeli population.• The US didn’t make the list.• Turkey came second on the list, with 92.5% of the population reached. From news sites to blogs, tweets to videos, The Numbers Crunch is a weekly column which zooms out and brings you the big picture online, from Israel, the Middle East and around the world, and poll results from JPost.com.The writer is the Internet desk manager at The Jerusalem Post.