On June 6th, 2010, a young Egyptian man by the name of Khaled Said was sitting in an internet café in Alexandria, Egypt, when he was arrested and subsequently beaten to death on the street by two Egyptian policeman in broad daylight. Said was only 28 years old, and he had studied computer programming in the United States for several years before returning to his home. A Facebook memorial page was set up for Said, and, soon, over 600,000 people had joined to share their condolences and voice their outrage at the corrupt government that was responsible for Said’s death. Said’s tragic death was the tipping point for the Egyptian people; nearly eight months later, on January 25th, 2011, over 70,000 people took to the streets all across Egypt, demanding that President Hosni Mubarak step down after 30 years of dictatorial rule. Protests and violent clashes between anti and pro-Mubarak supporters continued until February 11, when President Mubarak agreed to resign from office. At the turning point of the protests, February 1st, estimates of the number of protesters ranged from 200,000 to 2,000,000. Aside from the locations of the protests and the sheer number of those involved, however, something in particular stands out about this revolution; the fact that the protesters used the internet as a tool (and a quite effective one, at that) to spread their message. Protesters used websites like Facebook in order to organize marches and reach out to the rest of the world, and their effort was quite successful, inspiring several other “Marches of Millions” to display solidarity with the Egyptians. One man in particular, Wael Ghonim, became a hero of the revolution thanks to his actions online. Ghonim, a Google executive. Created the facebook page “We Are All Khaled Said” in order to raise awareness of Said’s death, and was detained by Egyptian authorities immediately upon his return to Egypt. For eleven days, no one could account for him, and it was not until Amnesty International demanded his freedom did Egyptian police release him. The Egyptian police force’s attempt to silence him had little effect; his group rapidly gained followers, and Ghonim became the face of the revolution, inspiring even more to join the anti-Mubarak cause. By the time Mubarak resigned, the Egyptian protestors had nearly universal support worldwide. Though my generation is frequently referred to as the “electronic generation,” few could have guessed just how significant our dependence on electronics would be in the future. The internet, as we have seen, can be a potent weapon when used correctly, and the Egyptian protesters demonstrated just how far reaching its influence is. The face of conflict has been changed forever by the internet.
The Revolution Will not be Televised, but it Will Be Posted on Facebook
February 13, 2011