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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Egypt: How Facebook, YouTube and Twitter facilitated a revolution

Wael Ghonim, Constantin Delivanis, and Ossama Hassanein

Facebook, YouTube, Twitter all key; Google the elephant nobody mentions

Walid Rachid brought Wael Ghonim into the core, and the game was on

As Egypt's government tries to divide the protesters by claiming that officials are negotiating with some of its leaders, they are now coming forward publicly for the first time.

There are about a dozen core leaders and organizers, including Wael Ghonim, the Google exec who was detained for 12 days but emerged this week as the country’s most important young spokesperson.

Mr. Ghonim, the Google Head of Marketing for North Africa and the Middle East, was the admin (as ElShaheed) behind the We Are All Khaled Said human rights / anti-torture webpage on Facebook, a primary hub for organizing the initial January 25th protest in Tahrir Square.

Wael Ghonim understands technology and the role it plays in facilitating communication and organization. Wael, quoted recently on CNN, said "This was an internet revolution. I'll call it revolution 2.0."

After Wael's detention in late January, Google was at work behind the scenes, together with Twitter. The two companies played key roles in assisting the protesters in communicating with one another. Google, the world's biggest search engine, and Twitter, the real-time 140-character broadcasting / micro-blogging platform, are reported to have hooked up and on February 1st the two providers of Web-based communication launched a phone-to-tweet platform to help protestors work around the government's tightening grip on media and cellphone communications, and stay one step ahead of the Egyptian authorities.

April 6th Youth Movement for Egypt

The revolution in Egypt got underway (or gathered torque) when Walid Rachid, 27 (not to be confused with the Palestinian artist of the same name), an organizer of the April 6th Youth Movement (initially led by Ahmed Maher and Ahmed Salah, while a later member, human rights activist Asmaa Mahfouz, was a major inspiration behind the 2011 Cairo uprising and protests across Egypt), sent an email to Mr Ghonim, who was acting anonymously as ElShaheed, asking for "marketing help" with his group's plans for a protest on January 25.

The two communicated via Google's Instant Messaging system, the only form of communication deemed by Ghonim to be safe, and drew together an alliance of various youth groups, primarily via Facebook and Twitter.

Just over three weeks ago, 26-year-old Egyptian activist Asmaa Mahfouz posted a video online urging people to protest the “corrupt government” of Hosni Mubarak by rallying in Tahrir Square on January 25. Her moving call ultimately helped inspire Egypt’s uprising.

"I, a girl, am going down to Tahrir Square, and I will stand alone. And I’ll hold up a banner. Perhaps people will show some honor,” Mahfouz said. "Don’t think you can be safe anymore. None of us are. Come down with us and demand your rights, my rights, your family’s rights. I am going down on January 25th and will say no to corruption, no to this regime."

“Egyptians right now are not afraid at all,” said Walid Rachid, described in the report as a student taking refuge from tear gas inside a Giza mosque. “It may take time, but our goal will come, an end to this regime. I want to say to this regime: 30 years is more than enough. Our country is going down and down because of your policies.”

Waleed Rashed (sic) told the Daily News, “we felt we could spread political awareness through plays and songs. What we were doing was certainly not a demonstration or a protest, but a celebration for Egypt…We also decided to try a new form of protest through patriotic songs.”

In Mubarak's Egypt, gatherings with more than five people forming an organization of more than five people are outlawed under emergency laws. It is also illegal to hand out leaflets the police deem to be political in nature, and, naturally, that express views contrary to those of the government.

On the promises made by the government, Ghonim, who is in his 30s, said: "They gave us a lot of promises about, you know, gradual change and so on, but then going back to the interview that (Vice President) Omar Suleiman did a couple of days ago, he said that Egyptians are not ready for democracy now."

"So I think this is actually our real problem with the regime...Use the baseball bat to hit those who are, you know, who decide that they want to say no."

On being asked about whether he felt any responsibility, he said: "No. No. I am sorry, but I don't -- you know, I am sorry for their loss."

"This could have been me or my brother. And they were killed - they were killed as if they, you know, you know, if these people died in a war, that's fair and square, you know. You hold the weapon and someone is shooting, you know, and you die. But no, none of them (sic)."

He went on to say: "This president needs to step down because this is a crime. And I am telling you, I'm ready to die. I have a lot to lose in this life...I work in the best company to work for in the world. I have the best wife and I have, I have - I love my kids."

"But I'm willing to lose all of that for my dream to happen. And no one is going to go against our desire. No one! And I'm telling this to (Vice President) Omar Suleiman. He's going to watch this. You're not going to stop us. Kidnap me, kidnap all my colleagues. Put us in jail. Kill us. Do whatever you want to do. We are getting back our country. You guys have been ruining this country for 30 years. Enough. Enough. Enough."

Wael Ghonim, himself inspired by Ghandi, Mark Zuckerberg, and the movie V for Vendetta

Sources: telegraph.co.uk/news (Jon Swaine), nytimes.com, theimpudentobserver.com, keydmedia.net, reuters.com, ndtv.com, womensenews.org

1 comment:

  1. I actually enjoyed reading through this posting.Many thanks.

    Egypt Photos


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