Social Media used for protest: Good or Bad?

Is social media the best way to protest certain issues? This question was discussed indirectly through previous blog posts and in person. From reading this week’s articles and discussions, my immediate answer to this question has changed. At first I thought in order to create great political change was to have a laptop and an internet connection to do the job. But as read more and more background information about what factored and influenced these young people to rise up and fight for their rights. Once again I’m using the social revolution in Egypt during the beginning of 2011 as my frame of reference and tangible example for my argument. On one hand the social media networks like Facebook and Twitter. Were an amazing outlet to input, inform and discuss several issues the young people of Egypt were dealing with, issues like police brutality, corruption, right to peaceful assembly, etc. Another aspect of this way of protest was a more covert way to discuss among fellow protesters and able to send information of their struggle to the outside world to raise more awareness of what really is going on there. Last aspect this medium gave more impact was a easier way to rally others and keep track of fellow protesters through Facebook pages like “We are all Khaled Said”

On the other hand it has some potential pitfalls, one possible scenario is once the controlling government figures out that there using social networks to protest and showing pictures or videos of their horrible acts. They could in turn shut down localized feeds to those specific sites or shut down the whole Internet in the region altogether. Furthermore the postings, blogs and articles would not really solve the problem, only telling people that something is wrong. In order to make any sort change both long and short term. The protesters have to leave their tablets, smartphones and computers behind, take it to the streets and make that change happen for themselves. As the main admin of the “We are all Khaled Said” page Wael Ghonim continues to say in several interviews after the social revolution in Egypt. He continues to downplay his role and agrees whole heartedly that he was not the real hero. He explains the young people in the streets protesting in person about these issues are the real heroes.

To conclude I will discuss some of the possible ideas I have for my project I will work on with several others in the class. One idea is using a series of memes, PSA’s or Vines to make a satirical critique and raise awareness of these human rights issues in the Middle East. Another idea is to take a traditional approach and build a webpage on programs like Square-space to raise awareness and discuss about these issues.

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Social Media used for protest: Good or Bad?

We are all Khaled Said

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Throughout the reading I was able to understand what “We are all Khaled Said” meant and what it represented to the people in Egypt. Majority of the youth in Egypt is growing up in a dysfunctional country were there are great scales of unemployment, drug abuse, poor quality education, and a corrupt legal system. As stated in the article Distorting Digital Citizenship, 62% of the population in Egypt is under twenty nine years old.

Many social media outlets have helped enabled uprising in many countries experiencing inhuman behavior towards citizens. One of the important movements in Egypt that spread rapidly would be “We are all Khaled Said” through the social network of Facebook. This movement helped the youth fight back the abuse they were receiving from the police through the incident of Alexandrian Khaled Said whom was beaten to death by police. Khaled Said was an indirect symbol who was able to represent the youth because he was easily relatable and his incident evolved the movement aimed towards the Emergency Law. Through this law, police powers were not limited, there was censorship, and citizens had no rights. The WAAKS allowed the starting of other small social media that address various of other issues Egypt faced such as sexual assault, marriage, drugs, etc. This aided the youth in seeing how important and influential social networks can be and recognizing the power it can have within their youth culture.

Khaled Said had a history of drug abuse and being problematic. He may not have been an ideal heroic symbol but he helped advance a rebellion against Hosni Mubarak former president would was eventually thrown over. Although there are still many remaining problems in Egypt to be faced this has helped spread awareness within the youth. Many are still hopefully that the youth will be more politically inclined and use the readily available and cheap forms such as the media and internet to gather together toward their human rights.

We are all Khaled Said

Youth Movements

It is interesting to see how a large population can be oppressed in different forms such as living conditions and education, but a specific case can spark the beginning of a movement. We Are All Khaled Said is a social and digital movement that started from the death of a young man, but holds representation for a larger community, the youth of Egypt. The youth take advantage of the resources provided to their generation, the advancement in technology and social media, to advocate their cause not only to their fellow youths, but on an international level. Unlike the driver, this young man gained sympathy from other youth because he was relatable to not only their age range, but their overall human rights situation. He became the foundation for the movement and a story that bled into the story of others. It helped gain publicity and awareness by using the photograph of his beaten face. This picture instantly gained popularity worldwide, which helped the overall movement. Although not perfect, he became an icon. His representation varied from different realms of digital media. I like how the article gives us a back ground of Said, that way the reader knows what kind of person he was and possibly relate as the youth of Egypt have. They don’t try to make him sound like a saint or perfect him. He had his flaws and pointed him out made it easier to relate.

Youth Movements

Digital Activism and Social Movements in Egypt

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The advancements of social media technologies has very distinctly impacted and fostered the growth and change of the spread of information accessible to the people of Egypt. Prior to digital activism, social movements in Egypt may have gained merely hundreds of supporters, as opposed to the thousands or more that are able to spread word of various causes through the use of social media like Facebook and Twitter. This newfound use of technology to spread awareness of various issues in Egypt helped directly to lead to the Egyptian revolution, “which would have greatly affected the participatory thresholds of other Egyptians and led to the quashing of the revolt before it could gather the momentum it eventually did,” (Faris- Social Media)

Ahmed Ghanim defines social media as platforms for user-generated ideas, and shared his account of how he experienced it’s contribution to the Egyptian revolution. I found it interesting that he stated that there were only two main forms of media for most of his life, and that they were so drastically different. He explained that the soft-spoken “other” type of media is what has been transformed by technology and social media, and this has helped it to become more mainstream in opposition to the media messages put out by the government. An aspect of this article and of the other that I found very interesting however, is what was stated about who the users are of these social media platforms. The majority of the users are regular people and citizens, but there is a percentage of users who belong to an “elite” group of activists who use the mediums to further a specific agenda, which usually is some form of response to the ruling regimes in Egypt.

Much of the articles were about Khaled Said, and about the contrast between his image as a martyr in the public and on Facebook which started the movements around his death, and about his personal life and the differences between the two images. Although he may have just been a flawed youth and some may argue that he wasn’t deserving of his saint-like status, his death and the movements that came about afterwards was crucial to the spread of information and outcries from other youth and citizens in the country who faced similar undeserving and brutal treatment from authority and police. I couldn’t help but make comparisons between the story of Khaled Said and the We Are Khaled Said movement, and the several movements rallying against the brutal treatment of black youth by police in America. Whether the face of a movement is necessarily an activist or saint themselves doesn’t seem to me to be very important, as long as the message being spread is one of importance and one that can help to benefit people who are being mistreated.

Digital Activism and Social Movements in Egypt

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

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

Revolutions are becoming socially mediated, but is there a hidden agenda behind the technology?

The class readings regarding social media revolutions and the distortion of digital citizenship, really opened my eyes to the harsh reality of Egyptian youth and the expansiveness of media technology. For instance, the way that the youths of Egypt used social medias like Facebook to both reach and inform people, who would never know of or truly understand the atrocities that young people face, in countries that lack human rights for its citizens, is amazing and would probably never occur without the expansive capabilities of the internet. However, I do feel that the youth movement that started “We Are All Khalid Said” (WAAKS) was wrong for their portrayal of Said, as a martyr, to support their politically driven agenda. From my understanding, Said was not an activist of any social movement to overturn Mubarak or to thwart the Emergency Law that plagued the youths of Egypt. He was just a youth, that’s it. A young man who lived in a country that treated its youths, as if they were a burden to society. In some way, WAAKS portrayal of Khaled Said, as a saint who could do no wrong, is similar to how the youths of Egypt are portrayed as a problem to society.

While the youth movements of Egypt gain attention for their means, the reality of what is truly epidemic, that is the marginalization of Egyptian society economically and the current disadvantaged state of both the middle- and lower-classes, are not being addressed. I think that in order for the youth movements to have a greater impact on not only the Egyptian society, but also on societies from around the world, it is important that these digitalized movements address the more rooted problems that have affected the country of Egyptian for centuries, not just recently. It seems as if those who are using digital media to gain attention and inform others, are simply using predominant problems that effect both themselves and a more specified grouping of society. However, my question is if the youth movements in Egypt were to expand their agendas to address the whole of society and the human rights brutalities they all face collectively, would those involved in such movements eventually lose their anonymity and become more susceptible to brutalities against their livelihood, both individually and socially? With this said, one could conclude that the reasoning behind the specificity of the digitalized youth movements, is to the extent to which they can begin to address the many problems that face their society, without feeling personally susceptible to the atrocities their people endure, due to the exploitation of power by the hierarchy.

Revolutions are becoming socially mediated, but is there a hidden agenda behind the technology?