With the resignation of Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak, the world may have witnessed a true social revolution. Would the changes have occurred without the help of social media? Sure, but the fact that the world was fully aware of what was happening through these media and protest communications were made easier and quicker definitely helped with the speed with which change occurred.
Mubarak began his autocratic rule following the assassination of President Anwar Sudat in 1981. The protests were initially “inspired by the civilian overthrow of Tunisia’s president. Among the demonstrators’ many concerns: Mubarak’s near-militant lockdown on political opposition for much of his nearly 30 years in power, as well as a lack of a designated successor,” the Huffington Post explained.
While protesters took to the streets in cities throughout Egypt, efforts were being coordinated through Facebook and Twitter. A Facebook page had been set up – “We Are All Khaled Said” – during the summer of 2010 in response to the police-beating death of Khaled Said as “a campaign against torture and police brutality. But this month, shortly after the Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was brought down following weeks of grassroots protests inspired by Bouazizi’s self-immolation, a post appeared on the Facebook page, announcing a day of protest in Egypt: Tuesday, Jan. 25,” Newsweek reported..
The Facebook page soon become a central resource for intelligence for the protesters. Prior to January 25, 2011 the site had over 300,000 followers (or Likers) and over the 17 days that the protests took to see Mubarack step down the number grew to over 700,000.
Social media became an important communication tool throughout the days of protest. The Egyptian government tried to curtail the protest efforts by blocking all access to the internet and workarounds were created – including one from Google.
The Facebook page was initially being administered anonymously by ElShaheed – martyr in Arabic – but when executive Wael Ghomin was arrested without anyone knowing, it was learned that a group of people, including Ghomin, were running the page.
In an interview “after his release from an Egyptian prison, the Google executive Wael Ghonim acknowledged Monday that he was one of the people behind the anonymous Facebook and YouTube campaign that helped galvanize the protest that has shaken Egypt for the last two weeks,” the New York Times reported.
Google seems to have a number of connections to the revolution. The company set up a special place for videos of the protests to be upload at CitizenTube. “We understand how closely the world is following these events, and want to help people access and share this information quickly and easily on YouTube.”
Twitter – used globally to track events – has been flooded with messages. The hashtag #Egypt has seen millions of tweets during the period and the use of social tools was humorously accredited by the tweet below.
Other examples of tweets following the announcement of Mubarack’s can be seen below.
There are many sources for information about this major political event that is being compared to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain, a good series of YouTube videos explaining things can be found here.
How this impacts the Middle East has yet to be seen, but as one Twitterer stated “Dear Arab people, What happens in Egypt, stays in Egypt. Sincerely Arab dictators”.