Social Media and Political Uprisings

Distorting Digital Censorship

In Ali and El-Sharnouby’s article dealing with Egypt’s youth and their actions against an authoritarian state through social media, they begin by stating that the youth make up most of the population. With the rise of social media activism such as the “We are all Khaled Said”(WAAKS) movement, the youth population has succeeded to cause political change with the fall of Mubarak while also failing to address the very issues that plague the young demographic, in which WAAKS unfortunately did not. The WAAKS Facebook page that sparked outrage to end the Emergency Law, which stated that the police practically held unchecked power, attacked the governmental policies that affected acts of police brutality and it ultimately succeeded.

Where the WAAKS failed was how it did not discuss the socioeconomic and political problems that affected the youth during their daily lives. This can be seen in the life of Khaled Said, the martyr and icon for the WAAKS movement. The social media movement had recreated and repackaged Khaled Said from a young man that was surrounded by a poor socio-economic environment, drug abuse, and loneliness to a middle class savvy intellectual that could resonate with the youth population online and across Egypt. All of the personal issues that Khaled faced in his own life became lost through his transformation into martyr for a political movement that succeeded in bringing attention to the Emergency Law while also not going far enough and only remaining focused on the outcome of Khaled’s life. Although I think the image change of Khaled Said was unintentional, the movement did ultimately achieve its goal of bringing widespread attention to police torture and towards more actions against ending the Emergency Rule. It is really unfortunate that Khaled Said’s personal life was washed away during WAAKS time and as time passes by, I believe more people will realize his personal sacrifice that evolved into a political statement.

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Social Media Networks and the Egyptian Revolution

Faris begins by explaining the importance of Social Media Networks such as Facebook and Twitter and how they are an incredibly powerful communications tool that can reach out to thousands of people in a matter of seconds. Social Media Networks allow activists to gather groups for rallies and protests without the need for money or expensive communications tools as Facebook and Twitter can be reached very easily through different mediums that are widely available. Additionally, it is also a powerful tool against authoritarian regimes. For example, the article states that social media was used to trick the Egyptian regime of planned protests and then they quickly relocated the protests last minute in order to avoid any violent or major conflicts with the government.

Another example that is shown in the article is through the Kefaya, which like the We Are All Khaled Said movement, protested against the end of the Emergency Rule. The Kefaya movement helped connect old protestor figures and new digital activists against the authoritarian regime. Anyone can start a digital activist movement and Faris states that even though the WAAKS Facebook page was started by a Google Executive in Dubai, these new technologies helped spark widespread political actions that probably would not have been possible if they did not exist. To me, this article looked at the positive effects that social media has and how it has transformed digital and street protests. What I found most interesting was when Faris stated that the January 25 protests could have taken place without the use of digital technologies, but that would have greatly changed the outcome. Communication mediums such as Twitter and Facebook that allow rapid conversation have no question elevated social and political involvement and uprisings against authoritarian regimes. egyptian_revolution_002_by_cyg_x_1-d38mdg0.jpg

-Ivan Palacio

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Social Media and Political Uprisings

Social Media: A Catalyst For Change

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Social media networks have given power to the individual, particularly the youth. With a digital tool that is safe and easy to use, activists have the ability to use social media networks to communicate with large numbers of people, and ignite a revolution, in authoritarian countries. This was the case for a repressive Egypt, where social movements like Kefaya (The Egyptian Movement for Change) and the April 6th Youth Movement, paved the way for one of the recent important digital forms of activism which was a catalyst for the Egyptian Revolution, the “We Are All Khaled Said” (WAAKS) youth movement.

For a long time, the youth in Egypt has had a tapestry of unanswered problems which has resulted from the ruling of the National Democratic Party (NDP) under Hosni Mubarak. The youth, that encompass the majority of the population, has been constantly marginalized and repressed both on the political and economic scale. But, the final straw came on June 6, 2010 when Khaled Said became a martyr after his gruesome death at the hands of two police officers.

Khaled Said’s death is one of the many unfortunate examples of Egypt’s harsh authoritarian regime, specifically pertaining to the Emergency Law. His death was one that many Egyptian citizens could relate to, thus the name of the famous Facebook page, “We Are All Khaled Said.” What made this campaign have such a national impact was the role that social media played. By using an online platform, like Facebook, to discuss the harsh realities that the Egyptian youth face, WAAKS created a campaign that was not going to be ignored.

Even though the WAAKS youth movement caused attention, as Ali and El-Sharnouby pointed out, “…people are still waiting for their problems to be addressed.” Even after the January 25 Revolution, Egyptian youths still face many unanswered problems including low-quality education, no steady income and employment, drug abuse, etc. There is definitely still so much to be done in the fight against Egypt’s repressive authoritarian regime but social media networks have illustrated that youth can use these digital tools to share their problems and move toward change.

 

Social Media: A Catalyst For Change

Youth and Digital Technology in Egypt

According to Ali and El-Sharnouby, Youth in Egypt has increased in population but during the era of Hosni Mubarak, this majority populous was marginalized. At first, in 1981, the youth were seen as productive forces but due to the NDP’s failure to implement any policies, significant amounts of this youth group could not get steady employment causing them to continue living dependent upon their parents. With this frustration and other factors, Egyptian youth were the catalyst and heart behind the fall of Mubarak, mobilizing the populous. Post revolution, these young people failed to recognize that they had to focus on the realism of their situation, “realities of drug abuse, religious extremism, poor-quality education, unemployment, sexual frustration…”(Ali and El-Sharnouby, 90). Ali and El-Sharnouby argue that the “We are all Khaled Said” movement is responsible for driving the Revolution in on the 25th of January. But the movement failed to identify and even discuss other socio-economic youth issues prevalent during the context of that period.

Not only did these youth’s serve as a tool for these revolutions and social movements, but so did the emergence and continued development of digital technology, specifically social media. This can cause digital co-option which is getting followers to gravitate towards one particular argument, discussion, discourse, aim, etc, while alienating others in the community by using “slogans, incidents, and cultural symbolism in their mobilization strategies”(Ali and El-Sharnouby, 92).

The Facebook page for WAAKS is a good example of this digital co-option, using Khaled Said is a martyr and unifying figure, to shift awareness towards other victims of Emergency Law. Khaled Said was not only part of the youth but a man of middle-class background whose death transformed him into the ultimate saint.

What I find immensely intriguing was Khaled Said’s influence by black American subculture including language, clothing and anti-police views. While this didn’t affect his activism its important to recognize these marginalized groups and how culture can thread them together.

Black American subculture and Egypt’s youth have perceptions painted onto them with judgement and disdain and yet they can help to empower one another through culture, language and style. I recognize, in the implications of this movement, various aspects that connect back to the United States and our social movements.

Ali and El-Sharnouby state on page 98 “This form of denial about ‘ourselves; as a society reinforces the syndrome of victim blaming. A woman is blamed if she is harassed; she is accused of wearing ‘unsuitable clothing’…just as a youth who takes drugs is perceived to deserve what he gets from the police.”

I can’t help but thing of Black Lives Matter and the perpetual, systemic and undeserved violence against Blacks in America. Police brutality over no crime or perceived petty-theft crime has become extremely common and life-threatening.

In conclusion, digital activism by specifically the  youth, assisted by the saint-figure of Khaled Said on Facebook, helped to mobilize efforts on January 25. The construction of Facebook pages, digital technology in general, and its connection to activism and ability to mobilize efforts is not only outstanding but proven to be successful, as studied in the WAAKS movement.

 

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Youth and Digital Technology in Egypt