Twitter Uses Role in Egypt to Underscore New Focus on Philanthropy

Microblogging giant Twitter is leveraging its role in the Egyptian revolution in order to promote its new charitable efforts.

Twitter Charity

As Twitter continues to diversify and expand its corporate profile, the microblogging giant has been publicizing its philanthropic efforts more and more.

A new project called hope140 centers on Twitter's philanthropic campaigns for projects such as International Literacy Day and reconstruction efforts in Haiti.

Interestingly, Twitter appears to consider its crucial role in the youth movement-led revolution in Egypt the same way. The hope140 blog recently posted an interview with the first blogger to use the #jan25 hashtag, a 21-year-old Egyptian student with the handle @alya1989262:

Twitter is a very important tool for protesters, as evidenced by the fact it and Facebook were repeatedly blocked in Egypt as the protests flared up. We use it to campaign and spread the word about protests/stands–hashtags are invaluable in that respect, and to share news quickly and efficiently, with our own 140-char commentary on them, and subsequently have conversations with random people/complete strangers. But most importantly, it allows us to share on the ground info like police brutality, things to watch out for, activists getting arrested, etc. A certain class of activists are armed with smartphones, which allow them to live-tweet the protests (for example, some people tweet the chants, because they’re often funny and interesting). When it comes to organisation, I think Facebook is the main new media tool there. Twitter trends also help us gauge how visible we are to the international community (my trends feed is set to Worldwide, and I know a lot of people have it set to various places in the US).

 

Making our voices heard, making sure people outside Egypt are aware of what’s going on is very important to us, especially with the recent cell lines and internet blackout last weekend.

One more thing is that the government has recently been trying to make use of social media—in a painfully awkward (but not surprising) manner. I’ve seen several Twitter accounts with few tweets and no more than 5 followers/following, tweeting about how bad the protests are for the stability of the country, how great the president is, etc. It’s always the same few tweets, with the same wording, over several accounts. But most of the government’s propaganda is done over state TV, which is unfortunately far more convincing to the average Egyptian citizen than a bunch of young people on the internet.

But right now, we’re planning how to use social media to counter government propaganda that paints protesters as violent, confused youth, misled by “foreign elements” into harming our own country. We need to enter the conversation with people who believe what they’re told on TV, and the best way to do that is using social media to present our arguments in a calm, logical manner.

Meanwhile, Twitter seems to be figuring out the best way to go about charitable work.

In related news, Chicago mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel is offering to donate $2500 to the charity of @mayoremanuel's choice if the operator of that Twitter account removes their feed. @mayoremanuel is a fake Twitter account that sarcastically skewers the famously foul-mouthed politician.

For more stories like this, follow @fastcompany on Twitter. Email Neal Ungerleider, the author of this article, here.

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