Home > Uncategorized > A Girl Called Facebook: How the Internet is a Dictator’s Worst Enemy

A Girl Called Facebook: How the Internet is a Dictator’s Worst Enemy

Sadia Noor
Assistant Blog Editor

Anti-Mubarak protesters hold up a sign referencing Facebook's role in the Egyptian protests. Photo credit to NPR.

In honor of the crucial role the social network played in the toppling of Egypt’s long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak, a young man in Egypt decided to name his newborn daughter Facebook. So yes, ladies and gentleman, there is a little Facebook running around in nappies somewhere on this planet. The unfathomable has been fathomed.

If you can look past the inevitable jokes, I think Facebook is actually an awesome name. That little girl can grow and be able to say, “Yeah, I threw down with Hosni and I won.” In fact, social networking tools have been indispensable in the protests now sweeping the Middle East and North Africa. The 2011 Egyptian revolution was sparked in part by the death of Khaled Mohamed Said, a young Egyptian man who died from severe injuries sustained from police brutality. Said’s story, along with a post mortem photo of his body after being beaten by police, was uploaded onto a Facebook group called “We Are All Khaled Said”. The group quickly gained thousands of members (now over one million) and was integral to organizing the January 25 protests that ultimately destroyed Mubarak.

Twitter, too, was a social media tool that poked holes in the Egyptian government’s defense. After Wael Ghonim, a Google employee that was using Facebook to promote democracy, returned to Egypt after working abroad, his family and co workers reported him missing. Turns out, the Egyptian government had detained Ghonim without warning and kept him for 11 days. After Amnesty International demanded Ghonim’s release, the Google employee was interviewed on Egyptian news station 10:00 pm and emotionally declared his dedication to liberating Egypt. Ghonim then took to the media and Twitter, becoming a symbol of the Egyptian protests, and was among the first people to respond when Mubarak finally stepped down.

Now, with several other Middle Eastern and North African countries rising in rebellion against their leaders, the battles between people and government are being projected all over the world by websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube. A perfect example of this is Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s warring with the Libyan people. Gaddafi, in a recent interview with ABC News’ Christiane Amanpour, claimed that there was no fighting in the streets of Libyan capital Tripoli, and that “my people love me” and “will die to protect me”. That’s funny, considering videos of government-issued fighter jets bombing cars on isolated highways and photos of dead Libyan rebels are constantly being distributed over social media websites.

The reason why the Internet is a dictator’s worst enemy is basic – with both sides of the struggle supplying their own stories through words, photos, videos, and grassroots websites, the rest of the world is free to decide who is in the right. And more often than not, the the raw, emotional photos and videos from an oppressed people speak louder than the polished, defensive words of an arrogant leader.

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