Social Networks Harnessed by Protest Movement in Egypt

On January 25, 2011, Egypt’s Police Day, various political bodies declared a “Day of Rage,” which was marked by massive demonstrations, unlike any seen in the country since 1977. Tens of thousands of people attended the gatherings, which were held simultaneously throughout the country; during them, three were killed, dozens were hurt, and numerous others were arrested. While the opposition organizations called on Egyptians to continue protesting, the Interior Ministry announced a ban on further marches or demonstrations.

Protest leaders used social networks such as Facebook and Twitter to plan and organize the demonstrations, while emphasizing that they would be apolitical. In anticipation of the rallies, dozens of Facebook accounts, both in favor and against the rallies, were opened. Leaders of the country’s opposition organizations responded to calls on Facebook to participate in the mass demonstration but did not display the emblems of their parties and groups.

It should be noted that the April 6, 2008 general strike and civil revolt in Egypt (which led the opposition to establish the April 6 Youth Movement) was also organized via the Internet, by email, Facebook, and Twitter. The next day, it was reported that numerous Facebook and Twitter accounts in Egypt had been shut down.

The following is an overview of the protest movement’s use of social networks in organizing the recent demonstration.


Protestors Organize Demonstration Via Facebook

The demonstration was organized primarily using Facebook pages, beginning with the “We Are All Khaled Sa’id” page. This page, which has over 400,000 members, was launched following the June 2010 death of 28-year-old Khaled Sa’id in Alexandria due to police brutality. This page’s administrators also launched another page, “The Day of Revolution against Torture, Poverty, Corruption, and Unemployment,” devoted to spreading word of the January 25 demonstration. (At the time of writing, the page had over 100,000 members.)

The organizers of the demonstration used Facebook to circulate an online leaflet setting out the aims of the demonstration and how it was to be staged. The leaflet stressed the importance of the demonstration as an apolitical show of protest. It explained that the Facebook page “We Are All Khaled Sa’id” is not affiliated with any political party or movement and that “the call to demonstrate is spontaneous, and was not planned by any political or popular force.” They added that their call had been “answered by all the political powers [participating in the demonstration] because [its] demands are identical [to theirs], and because the political powers defend in practice the rights of [all] Egyptians.”


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