Massive street protests in Egypt are
spreading virally as tech-savvy demonstrators are using Twitpic,
Facebook and YouTube to disseminate videos and photographs.
Opposition leaders in Egypt declared
January 25, 2011 as a “Day
of Rage” where protesters would take to the street against
President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule. The
protesters include secularists, Islamists and
Communists/ultra-left-wingers–a veritable who’s who of the
Egyptian opposition. The recent overthrow of the dictatorship in
Tunisia by a peaceful democratic opposition movement has presumably emboldened
the masses throughout the Arab world.
Exact numbers of protesters cannot be
estimated due to the ongoing events. However, a massive flood of
internet photographs and videos shows a gigantic presence in Cairo,
Alexandria, and other Egyptian cities.
The Egyptian government appears to be
engaging in censorship methods that are either half-hearted or
oblivious to the specifics of social media. Contrary to early
reports, Twitter has not been blocked in Egypt.
UPDATE: Twitter now confirms that it was blocked in Egypt. See statement tweets below:
towers were deactivated in several areas according to trusted
CNN’s Ben Wedeman, who maintains
an active Twitter presence, reports that cell phone relay towers
were deactivated but that Egyptians are still able to access Twitter.
Other Twitter streams belonging to well-known Egyptians in English,
Arabic and French corroborate Wedeman’s claim.
While access to Twitter via mobile
phones is painfully slow in Egypt, users with access to computers
have been posting stunning videos and photographs via Twitpic,
Facebook and YouTube that are then being widely retweeted, reposted
and reblogged by sympathizers around the world.
A Twitter representative pointed Fast
Company to a HeredictWeb report
noting that Twitter
in Egypt has become inaccessible to many users.
One video, posted by a YouTube account
shows a protester courageously single-handedly standing down Egyptian
riot police and water cannons (at approximately 1:25), in a Tiananmen
Square-like moment. The video was shot by a balcony overlooking a
large street protesters and bystanders are clearly overheard shouting
in Egyptian Arabic in the background.
However, reports of possible YouTube
censorship of protest videos are disseminating. One video posted to
YouTube and then shared
on Facebook claims to show Egyptian riot police being assaulted
and seriously injured by protesters. However, the video was taken
offline for a Terms of Service violation.
An amazing picture stream, posted by
Mahmoud El-Nahas, an Egyptian architect, appears
to show riot cops surrounded by more than 1,500 protesters
in the northern city of el-Mahalla el-Kubra. It is unclear whether
they are simply outnumbered by the protesters or rather they decided to join them.
Another YouTube video, posted by user
shows a massive street presence at a protest in Cairo’s Tahrir Square–a location equivalent in prominence and civic role to New York’s
An Egyptian opposition Facebook page,
Qarat, just posted this stunning picture of the protests
in Tahrir Square:
A spontaneous street campaign has also arisen around Tahrir Square, with verified reports surfacing of
residents unlocking their WiFi signals so users can get around mobile
phone outages and of restaurant owners giving the protesters free
food and water.
The media old guard has also been doing
an excellent job of covering events, with The Guardian‘s
coverage being a must-read (and see). Strangely, Al Jazeera is barely
covering the protests, which has raised questions on Twitter and
Facebook of whether the network is biased. Al Jazeera maintains close
ties to the ruling family of Qatar, the autocracy where it is based.
As of press time, it is 9:15 p.m. in Cairo
and more than fifty thousand Egyptians still appear to be in the
city’s streets, with no signs of stopping.
Readers interested in
keeping up with the events are urged to follow Egyptian journalist
Mona el-Tahawy’s Twitter
feed and the wall of the Egyptian opposition el-Shaheed’s
which is posting minute-by-minute updates from hundreds of Egyptian
Facebook users including photos and news of the latest events.