It finally came to light on Monday, February 7, 2011, that Google executive Wael Ghonim was the anonymous “El Shaheeed” — the one credited for bringing the revolution from the Facebook cloud to Egypt’s streets.Some backstory:
In June 2010, Ghonim created the “We are all Khaled Said” Facebook page after Said, a businessman, was publicly killed by Egyptian police and wrongfully diagnosed with drug intake as the cause of death.
Ghonim even posted the original video of the murder. And what started as a small campaign focused on police brutality quickly burgeoned into a large-scale call for democracy in Egypt after Tunisia’s President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was brought down in January, 2011.
“The power of Facebook is that our updates reach to everyone’s wall,” then-anonymous Ghonim told The Daily Beast in January when the page had racked up 375,000 followers. “Some of the videos we publish get shared on people’s walls more than 30,000 times. That’s how powerful a virus can be… Once it’s out, it goes everywhere. It’s unstoppable.”
And it certainly didn’t stop until President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year regime came to its demise on February 11.
So, how did a digital virus help topple a dictatorship? What were the different components of Wael Ghonim’s social media campaign?
Four days after Khaled Said's death on June 6, 2010, Wael Ghonim creates an Arabic-language Facebook page. The page is littered with posts -- on January 4, for instance, he makes nearly 40 updates -- with inspirational messages, newspaper reports, videos, photos, and requests such as 'Plz share and like.'
As of February 15, 2011, nearly 820,000 follow the page. An English page, We Are All Khaled Said, was launched on July 19, 2010 by an anonymous administrator who claims to work closely with Ghonim with the goal of spreading international awareness to the Egyptian situation.
Arabic to English translation via Google Translation:
I will not settle for Egypt never to kill Khaled torture by people who have no heart to them, mercy, and were confident that they are above the level of the account because they are from the police .. Egypt I will not leave the blood of youth in vain .. I Like Egypt Khaled .. Today they came to Khalid and killed him
Also on June 10, 2010, Wael Ghonim joins YouTube and posts this video showcasing graphic incidences of police brutality in Egypt cut with text that introduces El Shaheeed's Facebook page. It has drawn over 23,000 views, as of February 15, 2011. A second video, which has reached over 55,000 views, cannot be viewed after repeated YouTube warnings of its 'potentially offensive or inappropriate' nature.
Wael Ghonim uses Twitter as another platform for publishing his Facebook updates. As of February 14, 2011, the Twitter account has 3,989 tweets and 6,304 followers.
Meanwhile, on the English language front, Amnesty International takes up We Are All Khaled Said's cause, and uses its own own social media tool that allows people to sign a petition against police brutailty. Other international human rights groups then follow suit. Alliance for Youth Movements sets up a page in September 2010, and Human Rights Watch writes about Egypt's election fraud in November 2010.
Throughout the course of his Facebook activity, Ghonim posts over 28,000 photos depicting incidences of police brutality, supporters of his organised protests, and the protests themselves. Photos are sourced from news sites such as RNN and Al Jazeera, others crowdsourced from his hundreds of thousands of followers. He also makes the point that the camera can be used as a weapon for justice with this video post.
Ghonim maintains ongoing communications after a few setbacks. On November 25, the Facebook account was disabled, and in January, communications provider Vodaphone pulls services--Twitter and opposition news sites get blocked--at the request of the Egyptian government. He recommends use of proxy services, the Opera web browser and requests email addresses of his followers.
The recommended proxy service on the right allows for uncensored and unrestricted Web browsing.
Arabic to English Translation via Google Translate:
Addicted 2: After that they blocked the twitter and some news sites in Egypt .. There is news about blocking Facebook invite you to enter this site to break the block http://www.free-proxy.ca/
Wael Gnonim's call for protests -- invite via Facebook (above translated with Google Translate) and Google Docs -- draws the widest audience for the January 25 'Day of Rage' demonstrations. At this time, the page has 375,000 followers, and crowds number in the tens of thousands in the streets of Cairo and Alexandria. Hosni Mubarak's regime responds by cutting off mobile telephones, text-messaging services and the Internet. Three days later, hundreds of thousands take part in the demonstrations that inflame Mubarak's National Democratic Party.
Prior to the January protests, Ghonim sends out the call for four silent stand-ins in black attire. The few hundred supporters at the first stand-in grew to thousands by July in Egypt, England, France, U.S., and Thailand, among others.
The Facebook page catches the attention of international media. Earlier coverage from the Huffington Post in July and the Washington Post in August spool into all-out media spread that includes the New York Times, The Economist, The Daily Beast, BBC, and CNN, among others.
He first discloses his identity on a popular Arabic-language show after his twelve-day arrest that began on January 27. Video below and English translation on New York Times.
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