News / Middle East

In Egypt, Facebook Serves as Tool for Government, Opponents

A screenshot of
A screenshot of "We Are All Khaled Said" Facebook page, named in 2011 after Egyptian activist who was a victim of police brutality in Alexandria, Egypt, Feb, 4, 2014.
Elizabeth Arrott
In the 10 years since the launch of Facebook, few countries' political life has been as affected by the social network as Egypt.  

In June, 2010, a young Egyptian was beaten to death by police in Alexandria.  Even though there were numerous witnesses, police claimed the victim choked to death while trying to hide drugs.

Despite efforts by friends and family to unearth the truth, 28-year-old Khaled Said appeared destined to become yet another obscure statistic in a long history of Egyptian police brutality.  

Enter Facebook.  Supporters of the young man created a page on the popular social network called “We are all Khaled Said.”   With hundreds of thousands of likes, it was the center piece of an emerging wave of resistance to the repressive rule of President Hosni Mubarak.  

Khaled Said's killers went on trial.  And a new generation of opposition forces found a way to unite.

The activists behind the January 2011 uprising against the Mubarak government have credited Facebook for helping them organize and mobilize their revolt.  

Cairo-based journalist Bel Trew, speaking to Reuters, explained that during that time, it also acted as an alternative to traditional Egyptian media.

"Citizen journalism really exploded in 2011 and Facebook and Twitter were one of those ways, well two of those ways, that people were able to get information out there to the rest of the world because their own media wasn't helping," she said.

With an estimated 16 million members, Egypt is the biggest Facebook user in the Arab world, a fact not lost on subsequent leaders.  The military used it to communicate during their rule after the revolution, as did the Muslim Brotherhood supporters of President Mohamed Morsi.

In the crackdown on dissent and street protests since the Morsi ouster last year, his supporters have increasingly turned to Facebook.

Such online activism can come at a price.  Authorities last week arrested 11 Muslim Brotherhood members on charges of using their accounts for “inciting violence.”

But even as Egyptian jails fill with people deemed anti-government forces, including journalists from Al Jazeera, critics of the crackdown keep turning to the social network to get their point across.  On Tuesday, Facebook's 10th anniversary, journalists from around the world posted their support for their imprisoned colleagues.

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More