Bouazizi, 26, was educated but unable to find work. Unemployment stands at around 14 percent in the North African nation, but is much higher outside the capital city and tourist destinations.
The whistleblower website WikiLeaks is credited with stirring the anger of the Tunisian people. Users of Facebook and other social networking sites spread comments about U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, which described corruption in Tunisia and called the country a "police state." The Associated Press reported ordinary Tunisians "felt vindicated to see the U.S. diplomatic cables."
The cables described the president and his family as having a lavishly corrupt lifestyle -- a life of mansions and yachts, while the nation suffers under soaring unemployment and food prices.
One leaked cable told how the president's son owned a tiger and flew in ice cream from overseas.
The WikiLeaks cables "definitely had an influence" on the rioting, York said. "But at the same time, there were numerous Tunisian sites over the past few years that paid attention to the excesses of government."
ABC News' Lara Setrakian, Lama Hasan, Jake Tapper, Richard Coolidge and The Associated Press contributed to this report.