On June 8th 2010 29-year-old Google marketing executive Wael Ghonim was browsing though Facebook at home when he stumbled upon a startling image; a photograph of 28-year-old Khaled Mohamed Said’s body, bloodied and lifeless, after he had been beaten to death by Egyptian police. Enraged at this police brutality Ghonim soon created a Facebook page writing “Today they killed Khaled. If I don’t act for his sake, tomorrow they will kill me.” He named the page “We Are All Khaled Said”. After two minutes, this page had over 300 members and three months later, over 250,000. As outrage and opposition to Hosni Mubarak’s ruling grew, the use of the hashtags #Jan25, #Tahrir and #Egypt was used by protesters, journalists and the global twitter community to mobilise, coordinate, discuss and share or leak information about the uprising in Egypt.
Twitter was crucial to the efficient coordination of many protests and demonstrations, one of the largest being in Tahrir Square on #Jan25. This demonstration drew a crowd of over 80,000. Mid afternoon the government shut down almost all Internet access (except for one provider which services Egypt’s stock market). Google and Twitter soon after launched a service that allowed people in Egypt to send Twitter messages by leaving a voicemail on a certain number. This online voicemail service tweeted a link to each message with the hashtag #egypt. The involvement Google and Twitter allowed audiences outside of Egypt to keep in constant update through the eyes of the protesters. This was essential for the international support and protection of the uprising, as well as giving the protesters a voice and a way to communicate and document after they had been cut off.
The Egyptian Revolution of 2011 ended in an astonishing 13 days with Hosni Mubarak’s rule ending after 30 years.
Although Twitter and Facebook did not start the uprising, they were used as an essential tool of communication both between the protesters and the public. I believe the involvement of these commercial companies assisted in arriving at a successful outcome that benefited Egyptian citizens. The implications of such an action show the true power of media in comparison to governments and how in this case study, it was a positive thing that these media conglomerates were not regulated at a global level. By opposing the Egyptian Government, these companies supported and amplified those without a voice- encapsulating the importance of free speech.
(Just to be clear, I do believe that in this particular case study, and in most war/media relationships, it is in the publics best interest that these media conglomerates are not globally regulated which ensures an outlet for freedom of speech. However, I am aware that these situations are only a small leaf on a tree of media conglomerate regulation issues and that sometimes the global regulation of these powerful conglomerates would be in our best democratic interest.)