The internet didn't cause the political turmoil in some Arab states, but it made it easier for people to express their frustrations and to organise their responses to pre-existing conditions, a report from the Parliamentary IT Committee (Pitcom) says.
The hastily-commissioned independent report to MPs published on 15 March 2011 found that the internet, social media and handheld devices with video features played a significant part in channelling the current "unprecedented tide of people power ripping through the Middle East".
"But the internet itself has not directly caused revolutions: the motives were already there, and other conditions were right," it said.
The report detailed how internet users could exploit net technology, what governments could do in response, and raised questions about what positions MPs want the UK to adopt.
MP Alun Michael (pictured), who also leads the UK team at the UN's Internet Governance Forum, said UK parliamentarians ought to consider ensuring new technologies play "as active and positive a role as possible" to support the rights of people across the world as they fight for their basic freedoms.
• Support for citizen-based international news and information flows
• Net neutrality and its effect on democracy
• Internet governance, including how far the internet should be kept away from the direct control of governments
• Support for uncensored access and communications systems, such as the Tor Project, which helps to mask a message's sender and receiver.