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Social Media As a Weapon In Egypt 103

Posted by samzenpus
from the prepare-to-be-unfriended dept.
oxide7 writes "The internet and social media sites have become a battlefield between the Egyptian government and protesters. From the article: 'Facebook has at least two pages, Operation Egypt and one titled Egypt's Protests. The former carries calls to arms, asking for volunteers to mount distributed denial of service attacks. The latter has posted messages and videos, such as one that said the Ministry of Awqaf which is in charge of religious endowments, might work with the Ministry of the Interior to stop Friday prayers.'"
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Social Media As a Weapon In Egypt

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  • by Renderer of Evil (604742) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @03:33AM (#35017550) Homepage

    The Tunisian uprising was called Jasmine Revolution. If the Egyptian thing pans out they'll assign some new unrelated color.

    Set the naming conventions according to the social media outlet which was instrumental in fomenting it. For example:

    Twitter Revolution in Tunisia
    Facebook Revolution in Egypt
    Github Revolution in Jordan

    • by Seumas (6865) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @03:36AM (#35017566)

      Social Media has as about as much to do with revolutions as wearing a red ribbon on your lapel does with curing AIDS.

      • by bronney (638318)

        *likes*

      • Social Media is a tool for communication. Its important when planning a revolution to invite others. Hence the need to communicate.

        • by CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @05:11AM (#35017876)

          Yes but a facebook page that could have been set up by one person in a basement somewhere isn't really proof of a real grass roots movement yet it gets reported on breathlessly by the international media. "Oh look they have a facebook page and are using teh twitterz, OMG their government is doomed !"

          • by copponex (13876)

            The Facebook page in question is here [facebook.com] with about 450,000 supporters in a country that is well known for torturing dissidents to death on a regular basis. In a country where most people live on $2 a day, that's a lot of support, even if only half are Egyptian.

            If you have better ideas on how people should organize for social movements, let's hear it. Otherwise you're just pissing in Cheerios, and pretending that it means something.

            • by vegiVamp (518171)

              I'm not saying it's a *better* way, but the traditional procedure is waiting until you're so sick of the regime that you just can't stand it anymore, and then run out on the street attacking random avatars of said regime. If the time is right for it, major parts of the populace will then also realise they've had enough and join you.

              If the time isn't right, however, well, let's just say your revolution will go out in a very brief bang.

              This has worked for centuries past, be it slowly and painfully.

            • I'm a cynic I admit. Probably a lot of those supporters are indeed elsewhere in the arabic world and well-to-do (in a region where the vast majority are very poor as you rightly point out.) Combine that with the low barrier to entry and low risk of clicking a "like" button as opposed to getting out onto the street and protesting and I think it's not necessarily indicative of a broad pervasive movement of the people. I like the internet, it can bring people together and stir awareness, be used to organize pe

        • by Seumas (6865)

          People (usually the navel-gazing semi-incestuous circle of tech journalists and "social-media" gurus) promote social media as having some sort of nearly mystical power, rather than it just being a non-story that a device is used for communication in the same way a phone or a beeper or a posting on the supermarket bulletin board is.

          As a result, you have these countless morons who think they're "doing something" and are "good people" merely for putting the latest (widely publicized) missing child as their fac

          • by copponex (13876)

            Shows of solidarity are important, however they are expressed. Only expressing it through social media doesn't do much, but any awareness it raises is a hell of a lot more productive than being a little bitch and pretending that you're too superior to use social media to express yourself.

          • I mean, unless I'm wrong and some countries have recently decided to solve all their international conflicts or internal elections by counting the number of facebook fans they have.

            Hungary is a good example of that. A contraversial media law which can be used to curtail freedom of speech was passed by the government recently. An FB page was setup by those who are against it. In response the government setup its own page for the supporters of the law. The government is determined to have more fans of the page. And it seems that the government truly believes that if they get more FB fans then the law is justified.

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          Social Media is a tool for communication. Its important when planning a revolution to invite others. Hence the need to communicate.

          You'd have to be a real fucking retard to use facebook to plan an actual revolution (excluding things like steganography, hidden coded messages or whatever)

          Personally, I'd assume that any Facebook pages saying "join with us in the glorious people's armed revolution" were set up by the government to catch particularly stupid people.

          • So what would you use? Remember you have to communicate with people young enough to want to risk their freedom to go against the flow. Personally I think twitter is the better tool because a lot of your messaging is going to be tactical: meet at this place at this time. Sure the government will see the same messages but they may not have the same fast response.

          • Personally, I'd assume that any Facebook pages saying "join with us in the glorious people's armed revolution" were set up by the government to catch particularly stupid people.

            I think that you are underestimating mankind's stupidity.

      • by couchslug (175151)

        Yeah, let's go back to the Good Old Days of mimeographed Samizdat communication that required face-to-face handoffs.

        In MY day we fomented revolutions by passing wax tablets, uphill, during snowstorms, and we were grateful to have that luxury.

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          Yeah, let's go back to the Good Old Days of mimeographed Samizdat communication that required face-to-face handoffs.

          In MY day we fomented revolutions by passing wax tablets, uphill, during snowstorms, and we were grateful to have that luxury.

          You jest, but at least there was a reasonable chance of spotting government spies that way.

          Now any fucker can set up a "viva la revolution" page on facebook, organise a cool-sounding midnight raid on the Palace, and when you turn up , it's just you and two hundred police men with no sense of humour.

          • But agents provocateurs are nothing new. They've been around since the beginning of the world too. Co-conspirators who encourage idealists to carry out an act and they all sign their vows of allegiance to the glorious people's revolution, and next find it being waved at them by the government's chief minister when they are hauled off to the dungeons the next day... nothing new here. Too many examples from history.

            Agent provocateurs didn't start with the internet.

      • by copponex (13876)

        Yeah, heaven knows raising awareness does absolutely nothing for social movements. MLK didn't use any symbolic gestures or public demonstrations of civil disobedience to force the people denying his rights and the rights of millions of people to deal with him publicly instead of pretending that everything was just fine. Of course, that's total nonsense. The Civil Rights movement, the abolition movement, the suffrage movement, and all other successful social movements used symbols and acts of solidarity to r

        • by tehcyder (746570)
          Raising awareness for peaceful social improvement causes is in a different league than organising a mass revolution against a tyrannical government.
      • Say wut?

        Social media enables mass communication outside government control - IFF there is a sufficient number of people who knows how to circumvent government censorship then the government loses control of information. Once that control is gone, a large number of smart people are able to communicate. In a censored country, you are stuck with whoever you can physically talk to. Once you breach the communication barriers, these people are free to exchange thoughts and maybe plan and execute a revolution. Or

    • by a_hanso (1891616)
      I suggest we give ourselves a larger namespace. This needs to be the #FF0080 Revolution.
    • by isorox (205688)

      Github Revolution in Jordan

      Looks like Yemen might be next. Something about a printing revolution?

    • All these fancy color names are just invented to fill our news cycle and give us some interesting pseudo news to talk about. If we should've learned anything from the color-coded "revolutions" in eastern europe it's that these aren't actually revolutions, just one part of the elite (ab)using popular sentiment to take over from the other part. Of course that would take some actual analysis and intellectual honesty to report on, so we get the fantasy feel-good version.

    • by glebd (586769)

      Github Revolution in Jordan

      GitHub revolutions are pointless, as they are easily reverted.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mito (115150)

      Jasmine is not a color in Tunisia, it is the national flower often worn by men over the ear.

  • by mvar (1386987) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @03:38AM (#35017570)
    What is the actual purpose on doing DDoS attacks on some rarely visited government web sites? If people want to actually change things, they should really go out and protest against the government rather than sitting behind the safety of their monitors clicking endlessly until some crappy configured server goes down.
    • Do we have to travel to Egypt to show our displeasure, or is this an egyptian only affiar?
      • by syousef (465911)

        Do we have to travel to Egypt to show our displeasure, or is this an egyptian only affiar?

        Well you can travel to Egypt and then blog about it, but they're using very real violence. I don't think your snarky status update is going to compare with a beating, tear gas, bombing or being executed. The truth is social networks only have any real power if people care about the issue, and then it is just a question of having a medium where one person can disseminate the information quickly to many other people.

        • The problem is that the social networks are being blocked. "sitting behind the safety of their monitors clicking endlessly" could provide some assistance if you were to set up ways to circumvent the blocks.
          Being on the street protesting is not the only useful action to perform.
      • by mvar (1386987)
        They have embassies around the world. Also, talking out loud in Facebook may seem as a good way to protest but your "voice" is just one click away from being shut
    • by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @04:36AM (#35017738) Homepage
      Well, to the modern type of person who attends protests, saying things is as effective as doing them. This has a long history going back to the 60s radicals. There's this idea of "the narrative" where real-life events are supposed to follow a script. In the past, framing events made them happen in reality (the story of US defeat in Vietnam, for example) but this only works in free countries with biased media. This is why so many people were baffled when Iran didn't fall..."I changed my web page background to green and applied twitter directly to the forehead...why didn't it work?"
      • by rikkards (98006) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @06:03AM (#35018078) Journal

        That's pretty easy to answer though. If you look at both Vietnam (for the US) and Afghanistan (for the USSR), they both had external political backers who were supplying weapons. There were other factors as well but without said supporting through armaments, things probably would have been a lot different. These protests are pretty much doomed to fail without serious physical (and not digital) violence happening. Why did East/West Germany and Poland fall? Neither would have if the USSR had not been rotting from the inside thus resulting in less influence. Pretty much everyone in the countries involved wanted it to happen, even the politicians. In all of these cases the influential force is internal to the country and has a vested interest in making sure it fails. Remove that interest and things would change.
        I think until these protests are willing from the start to end in potential bloodshed, they are spinning the proverbial wheels. Granted it may persuade some over to their side and gets their cause some exposure but that can be risky when they come in the night.

      • In the past, framing events made them happen in reality (the story of US defeat in Vietnam, for example)

        Do you honestly believe the US was defeated in vietnam due to US domestic anti-war protests? I find it extraordinarily hard to believe the viet cong was so irrelevant.

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          Do you honestly believe the US was defeated in vietnam due to US domestic anti-war protests? I find it extraordinarily hard to believe the viet cong was so irrelevant.

          It is difficult in a democraic country to continue with a war that has mass opposition, which is where the Vietnam conflict got to.

          In the case of the Iraq conflict, I suppose there were just not enough people making enough fuss on a regular basis.

          • What's a major difference, domestically, between those two conflicts?

            Conscription.

            Seems likely that the chance of being forced to serve in the military in a combat zone influenced anti-war sentiment during the Vietnam era. Since then, the US has effectively eliminated conscription, shifting to an all volunteer force.

        • The Viet Cong were destroyed in the 1968 Tet Offensive. After that point, they were irrelevant. TV news cast the Tet Offensive as a defeat, and made it so.

          The US withdrew in 1972. Congress cut off all help to South Vietnam to spite Nixon because of Watergate. The South Vietnamese were not in bad shape when the US left.

    • by joemod (1068624)

      What is the actual purpose on doing DDoS attacks on some rarely visited government web sites? If people want to actually change things, they should really go out and protest against the government rather than sitting behind the safety of their monitors clicking endlessly until some crappy configured server goes down.

      During the past years the Egyptian government tried to reduce bureaucracy (which is huge) and corruption (imho) by introducing a lot of services e.g. authoring certificates, accessible from Internet. This was a big project in collaboration with Microsoft. So I suppose that by doing DDoS attacks on these websites the governmental sector will halt.

    • by copponex (13876)

      Any show of solidarity will help. Even retweeting your support, as impotent as it may sound, will embolden the populace to continue to take action.

      This action is doubly important for Americans, since we have been propping up Mubarak for 30 years to achieve our policy goals in the region. If you give a damn about democracy, you can write your congressperson and senator and ask them to do the right thing and put Mubarak on notice that he will not have the support of the United States if he continues to suppre

      • by stdarg (456557)

        If you give a damn about democracy, you can write your congressperson and senator and ask them to do the right thing and put Mubarak on notice that he will not have the support of the United States if he continues to suppress democratic will in Egypt.

        You're confused. You can "give a damn" about democracy, but still not support Islamist movements against Western allies. You understand that the world is not black and white, right?

        • by copponex (13876)

          Either you support someone's right to vote, or you do not. As Lincoln said, "No man is good enough to govern another man without that other's consent." Frankly, the idea that any American would support the financial and political backing of a man who murders people who disagree with him is the furthest thing from the American ideal that I can even conceive of.

          From the rest of the world, with all sincerity, stop being such a piece of shit. Stop supporting murderous dictatorships for your own cynical desires

          • by stdarg (456557)

            I don't know why I'm bothering to respond. You're an idiot.

            Either you support someone's right to vote, or you do not.

            Nope! In the past, people have said stuff like "I support someone's right to vote as long as they are men." Today we say "I support someone's right to vote if they are 18+ and not a felon."

            So.. you're wrong. It's not either/or.

            Frankly, the idea that any American would support the financial and political backing of a man who murders people who disagree with him is the furthest thing from the American ideal that I can even conceive of.

            You're ill-informed. It's not because people disagree with him, it's because they are Islamic fascists who want to kill him and terrorize the whole world.

            Stop impoverishing people you don't know because you're afraid of their opinions.

            LOL, what?? Sad really. What you should really do is talk to the radical

  • I remember when worry about nuclear apocalypse was in vogue. It was often said that WWIII would be the last war.

    However, it makes me think, if this is the new face of popular revolution, and it seems to work pretty well, quickly, and bloodlessly, well... maybe its time for WWIII. We could stand to reset the government here. Does anyone really think we wouldn't benefit from a total rewrite?

    You know, sometimes you have to give up on version 1.112 and start working on a clean 2.0.

    We have enough people out of w

    • by rednip (186217)

      Does anyone really think we wouldn't benefit from a total rewrite?...You know, sometimes you have to give up on version 1.112 and start working on a clean 2.0..., I hope to see this trend catch on.

      Sure, but we will need martyrs; how about your family? Would you like to be the first to die today, or the last? People like you seem to assume that they'd somehow manage to scratch and claw your way to the top in a jumbled society. However, if your 'dreams' ever did come to fruition, you'd be lucky enough to live though it until order is restored.

      • by TheCarp (96830)

        Martyrs? There are already plenty to choose from if you ask me. Hell I have known people that I can expect to not see for a while because the thugs in blue found out that they had dried flowers at his house. The entire war on human appetite has left a trail of human destruction in its wake that rivals any real wars.

        You misunderstand me if you think I want to be on the top. Leadership is not my bag at all. Really, I just want to play video games and work on projects that amuse me, and I don't mind going to w

  • "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
    - Inigo Montoya

  • In every war, it's been a major tactics to cut off your enemy's ability to communicate with outside resources. There has been no change.

    Killing messengers
    Destroying railroads
    Severing telegraph lines
    Destroying printing shops
    Severing phone lines
    Destroying radio towers
    Putting noise out on all channels
    And now... turning off Twitter (OMGLOL!) and using Facebook for propaganda.

  • by MrSteveSD (801820) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @12:32PM (#35021670)
    Conspicuously absent from the mainstream media is any discussion of our support for these brutal and oppressive regimes. The use of social media in these revolts has provided a safe angle for journalists. Journalists are now able to spend most of an article talking about how amazing Facebook and Twitter are rather than note that the US has funded the oppressive security apparatus of Egypt for decades. Tacit support for a dictator is one thing, but massive material support to the tune of billions of dollars is quite another. The very least the US could do to help the Egyptian people is to stop actively helping their oppressor.
    • Context matters. You might want to look into why the USA provides material support to Egypt.
      • and why does it?
        • I'd hope the phrase Camp David Accords rings a bell. If not I cant really be surprised.
          • It does "ring a bell", but that's far cry from you actually *saying* what you're beating around the bush about. Not that this surprises me...
            • Does everything have to be spelled out in detail, spoon fed at a kindergarten level? Did I actually need to write out a short history lesson to reply to MrSteveSD's post? I actually consider it a crying shame that blather like that gets modded "5 Insightful" because that means people dont know their history.
              • Did I actually need to write out a short history lesson to reply to MrSteveSD's post?

                Nobody asked to you reply. But IF you want to make an argument, make it. Don't just say "it can be made", then leave that as homework to the reader, and *then* instantly pile on the insults while refering to "kindergarten level" when you're called on it.

                Which, as I said, doesn't surprise, since I guess your implied argument for supporting a tyranny is "otherwise, worse would happen", since it usually is, and people who

                • Don't just say "it can be made", then leave that as homework to the reader

                  Re-read my original post

                  I guess your implied argument for supporting a tyranny is "otherwise, worse would happen"

                  Srawman.

                  I just asked you, what the good reasons are, ... So I'll have to assume there simply isn't anything worthwhile there.

                  Since the CDA has provided the framework for US attempts to guide the Arab Israeli negotiations for over 30 years, the idea of altering the terms of the agreement might be difficult at best. Anyone could try and start a campaign to convince Congress to repeal material support to Egypt or any other country the US provides any form of aid to. There are all sorts of special interest groups out there. Still, as before, context matters which is why both the US State Dept and the g

                  • Don't just say "it can be made", then leave that as homework to the reader

                    Re-read my original post

                    sure:

                    You might want to look into why the USA provides material support to Egypt.

                    which is exactly what I said it is.

                    Srawman.

                    I'm not arguing for or against anything, I'm just guessing because you're not spilling the beans if you will..

                    Since the CDA has provided the framework for US attempts to guide the Arab Israeli negotiations for over 30 years, the idea of altering the terms of the agreement might be dif

  • by kbahey (102895) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @06:01PM (#35025842) Homepage

    Rather than moderating, I'd rather write what I know.

    There is a lot of misinformation here, and mainstream media coverage in the USA seems not up to par. Europe's coverage is much better, and Canada somewhere in between. The church bombing on New Year's Eve got more coverage than this history in the making period.

    First, I am Egyptian, born and raised there, but living outside of Egypt for the last 2 decades. I was personally affected by the regime there for decades, but that is a story for a future blog post. I have family there, and was in Egypt for all of December 2010.

    The whole region is run by military dictators, after the post-World War II upheaval. The colonial rule by European powers, or local monarchies, were ousted in military coupe d'etats. Many of the dictators were idealistic at first, and took a socialist or communist slant initially, only to become totalitarian despots, fascists, or something else other than socialist. Now the trend is to make it a dynastic rule, with Syria the first to have a nominal republic convert into a dynastic one. Tunisia's ex-despot had a son in law (Sakher El-Materi, only 30 years old) who was into politics big time and poised to take over the reigns of the country. In Algiers, the president is set to install his brother to succeed him. In Libya, a son seems earmarked for that. In Egypt it is also a son as well. I think Yemen.

    Look at the statistics and cringe in horror at how long these despots are in power:

    - Libya: Qaddafi - 41 years.
    - Yemen: Saleh - 32 years.
    - Egypt: Mubarak - 29 years.
    - Tunisia: Ben Ali - 23 years.

    Let us ignore the monarchies in the region for a bit, since they are not a republic and can nominally remain in power for that long.

    Mubarak has been in power FOR MORE THAN ANY EGYPTIAN RULER IN MODERN HISTORY. That is since 1847 or so, NO ONE has ruled as long as Mubarak did.

    All of them have had a sham parliament amend the nominal constitution to make it possible for them to run for more than the maximum of 2 or 3 terms, and then make it a lifetime thing as well.

    All of them have parliaments that consist exclusively of those from the ruling party which gets 90% or more of seats via intimidation and exclusion of the opposition.

    Now, the Operation Egypt thing is relatively new. I saw it today in the morning only. So it remains to be seen if they are helpful or not.

    What I can say is that on Jan 25, the Egyptian Presidency [presidency.gov.eg] web site was showing "under development and construction". I was checking it for a page for the list of modern rulers of Egypt and their time in power. Today, the web site seems to be under a DoS attack.

    However, the stars of the show are first Kolena Khaled Saeed [facebook.com] (We are all Khaled Saeed). It is a Facebook group that is named after a 20-something youth tortured and killed by the police last year. Police brutality is one of the top demands of those who are protesting. Last I checked, they had 413,000 "likes".

    The second star is the Rassd News Network [facebook.com]. This is a grassroots citizen news organization that is very mature, professional and objective. They verify sources and rate items as either "unconfirmed" or "confirmed". They have both Arabic and English updates from various sources, including eyewitnesses from action. You can "Like" them in Facebook, ignore the Arabic messages, and read the English ones to see updates.

    The path to where we are today with protests was a long one.

    The parliamentary and presidential elections in 2005 and 2006 show a lot of courage from a very small number of people. They were mainly middle class or intellectuals. The rest of the public did not catch on. Those who opposed the president got the heavy hand of the regime on them. For example, Saad El Din Ibrahim (an academic, and a bit eccentric) got imprisoned on false charges, Ayman Nour (another opposition figure) was impriso

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You, sir, are an idealist.

      But idealist won't make society better, especially not an Islamic country, like Egypt.

      The military dictators might be ousted, but even more cruel regimes will take their place.

      I too live in an Islamic country. I too am very tired of the current regime, but I do realize that if this regime is toppled some even more despicable characters will take helm and take my country to even deeper shit.

      And yes, I too have lived in the Western democracy for decades.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The Rassd Facebook page you linked to seems to be Arabic-only now. Here's an English page of theirs: http://www.facebook.com/RNN.World [facebook.com]

  • Your right, the media here does a horrible job of covering what is going on in. Hopefully this younger wired generation can accomplish something their parents couldn't.
  • Hi I am doing some research into people's attitudes towards Facebook for my Thesis. I'd be very very grateful if you could take 5 minutes to do this survey. Thank You! http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/MKZWL9T [surveymonkey.com]

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