Foreign Policy has a very interesting piece today on the role that Facebook, Twitter and various other social media sites played in the ouster of Tunisia’s “president” (for life as far as he was concerned), Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

FP notes that the revolution in Tunisia has not made much news here in America and in that they are correct. This amazing story really has not made much headway against the shooting in Arizona and the holidays before that. But it is a story that we Americans should pay attention to, one that should make us take heart that tyranny can sometimes be beaten down without all-out war… and in an Arab nation at that.

Not only that, but it shows that the Internet is advancing freedom despite the attempts by tyrannical governments to quash its influence. From China to the United States governments are either attempting to control the Internet completely — as in China — or laying plans to do so — Like Obama’s FCC in the U.S.A. — but the fact is that it is almost impossible to fully control the Internet when the people can develop the same skills to unleash the Internet that the governments use to control it.

According to FP’s reading of it, the Tunisian story is one more example of how important the Internet has become in helping people free themselves of oppressive government. Just like the recent Cedar Revolution in Syria (with heavy use of cell phones to communicate about protests) and to an even greater degree the Green Revolution in Iran (which used cell phones and Twitter and social media to alert the people of news), the fall of Ben Ali in Tunisia was facilitated by much social media use to guide those opposing tyranny.

Dictator Ben Ali did his level best to contain the situation. He began making all sorts of concessions over the last month or so. He even agreed to end his long reign in 2014 if only the people would go back to their homes and calm down. He failed to assuage them, however, and eventually had to flee his own country! The people won this battle. What happens after this will determine if they won the war.

Foreign Policy’s piece, though, explores the role that social media played in this victory. It seems it was a substantial one.

The irony is that social media likely played a significant role in the events that have unfolded in the past month in Tunisia, and that the revolution appears far more likely to lead to lasting political change. Ben Ali’s government tightly controlled all forms of media, on and offline. Reporters were prevented from traveling to cover protests in Sidi Bouzid, and the reports from official media characterized events as either vandalism or terrorism. Tunisians got an alternative picture from Facebook, which remained uncensored through the protests, and they communicated events to the rest of the world by posting videos to YouTube and Dailymotion. As unrest spread from Sidi Bouzid to Sfax, from Hammamet and ultimately to Tunis, Tunisians documented events on Facebook. As others followed their updates, it’s likely that news of demonstrations in other parts of the country disseminated online helped others conclude that it was time to take to the streets. And the videos and accounts published to social media sites offered an ongoing picture of the protests to those around the world savvy enough to be paying attention.

Ben Ali’s government has been trying to fully censor the Internet since at least 2005, FP reveals to us. The government had gone so far as to launch major “phishing” and hacking efforts to round up Internet users that violated the government’s edicts. Many have been arrested. But they have not been stopped.

As things quickly rolled downhill for Ben Ali, one of his concessions was to lighten up a bit on the Internet censorship he was criticized for. That unleashed Facebook and Twitter as well as various video services to be used to help inform the protestors about what was going on.

Now, don’t get what I am saying here wrong. I am not saying that Twitter and Facebook was the key part of the ouster of this tyrant. I am not making the claim that without it the revolution could not have happened. What I am saying is that the Internet played an important role in disseminating information about the abuses of the government and it was a serious part of the way that the people communicated around and underneath the government’s attempts to oppress them.

As FP says, the role of the Internet and social media in this Tunisian event will be debated from here until eternity. But the fact is, however key it was to the final outcome, it does show that the Internet simply cannot be fully controlled by an oppressive government.