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The Egyptian Revolution was started by the youth, and may not have been possible without tools such as social media.

President Hosni Mubarak led a 30-year corrupt regime over the country of Egypt. Mubarak stepped down after the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. The Revolution included demonstrations, protests, non-violent civil resistance, and riots. The Egyptian people decided to revolt because of the torture, violence, poverty, and unemployment that was caused because of the government led by Hosni Murabak.  The Egyptian Revolution lasted from January 25th, 2011 until February 11th, 2011. Social media played a vital role in the revolution, which made many Egyptians feel that Mark Zuckerberg was the new hero for Arab people. People were communicating where to meet for protests, and what was going on with the revolution using the hash tag #Jan25 via Twitter and Facebook. The first three days of protests included the police surrounding Tahrir Square, as well as becoming very violent and brutal towards the protestors. On the fourth day of protests, Mubarak cut off the Internet in order to prevent any further coordination between the protestors with each other and with the outside world. Even though one of the protestors’ primary tools, social media, was cut off, the demonstrations only grew larger and more intense. Many police stations were burned, and the Egyptian army interfered in order to protect the protestors and prevent any further chaos. Murabak refused to step down for seventeen days, until there were millions of protestors who opposed him and were simultaneously standing up for their freedom. On February 11th, “The Decisive Moment” occurred, and Mubarak stepped down from office, allowing armed forces to take over and rule the country.

The Egyptian Revolution was started by the youth, and may not have been possible without tools such as social media. During the start of the protests, Twitter was used to coordinate, Facebook was used to plan the protests, and YouTube was used to tell the world. After police beat Khaled Saeed to death in June 2010, Wael Ghonim created a Facebook page called “We Are All Khaled Saeed.” The page gained over 400,000 followers and was used as a gathering point for planning protests during the revolution. Once Ghonim revealed that he was the man behind the page, Murabak and his followers jailed him for 12 days. Another vital face of the social media movement during the revolution was Asmaa Mahfous. Mahfous posted YouTube videos persuading the Egyptian people to join her and protest at Tahrir Square. She told her viewers that this was their chance to stand up for freedom, and demand equality.

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Photo Courtesy of Essam Sharaf on Flickr

Mona Eltahawy, an Egyptian-American journalist offered very insightful opinions about the use of Twitter and other social media during the Egyptian Revolution in an interview with the Canadian International Council. Eltahawy says that social media is the tool that helped people say what they needed to say, and connect with others who felt similarly during the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. Mona Eltahawy clarifies that without people speaking out, the protests wouldn’t have been as successful. Social media was a tool that helped make this possible, but people are the most essential part of a revolution. It is the willingness of people to stand up against being terrorized that will make a revolution successful.

Eltahawy explains that the main use of Twitter during the Revolution was to connect Egyptians to the outside world. Egyptians were able to organize via Twitter, as well as SMS. “I think Twitter, overall, was much more a way for people to communicate with people of the outside world, and it basically gave the outside world a front row seat to the Egyptian revolution” (Eltahawy 2011). Even though she goes on to say that the Internet was not vital to the revolution, she admits it was one of many tools Egyptians used to bring themselves out on the street and inspire others to join. In fact, after Mubarak shut down the Internet, the number of people on the street protesting increased. Roughly 15 million – 20 million people got involved, which led to Mubarak stepping down after 18 days.

When asked what social media executives should do to further enable revolutions, Eltahawy responded that they should listen more to activists when trying to highlight things such as police brutality. The YouTube account of an Egyptian activist was shut down because he posted videos exposing police brutality. YouTube said that it was against their terms of content since it was deemed violent.  “This wasn’t violent content for the sake of violent content,” Eltahawy explained (Eltahawy 2011). This was to expose the inhumane police brutality that was occurring. Instead of caring about making profit, Eltahawy suggests that social media executives should realize some people are using their websites to actually make a difference and make a change.

Featured Image by Essam Sharaf

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