The new military rulers of Egypt have just launched an official Facebook page. As of Friday morning United States time, the page, titled الصفحة الرسمية للمجلس الأعلى للقوات المسلحة (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces), already had more than 75,000 followers on Facebook.
The Egyptian junta’s Facebook page has extremely high traffic, which is unusual for governmental Facebook pages-—a symbol of just how highly social networking sites are valued by the young Egyptians who forced Hosni Mubarak out of power.
The Egyptian Armed Forces’ Facebook wall consists of two posts, both photos of Arabic-language communiques affirming the importance of #jan25 movement protesters and stating the Egyptian military’s role in safeguarding reform.
The most recent post on the Facebook page received 4,500 comments within 24 hours. User comments show a wide range of responses that seem to indicate the uncertainty felt in post-revolution Egypt:
Bassem Gamil: us all proud and honored and cherished and love for this great army protector of the revolution, and protection of the shield and the guarantor of the corruption trial, whatever its location and state-building at the hands of the honorable
Wafa Ahmed: God save our heroes of the Egyptian forces Almshalp world champions and Charfaih O God, the greatest forces in God, I love you and all the Egyptians
Mohammed Abdallah Elwazeer: want a national project
Ahmed Nabil Elahmady: Peace to all of you ….Long live our beloved Egypt We must all resume and resume work from now Disengagement should all sit-ins in all sectors and institutions of the state in order to preserve our economy In order to achieve this must be a decision for each point of a deterrent and will adhere to stop working and it is…
User comments on the Facebook page are, of course, written primarily in Arabic.
According to Egyptian Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who has emerged as the junta’s most visible public face, the page was established in order to facilitate “fruitful cooperation in the coming period with the honourable sons of Egypt who would lead to stability and security.”
Human rights activists note that the Egyptian military is still committing physical and sexual abuse on prisoners and detainees in custody. Egyptian activist groups still believe dozens of January 25 protesters, mostly belonging to Islamist groups, are currently in custody.
The decision to launch the new Facebook page came on the heels of a viral internet video campaign to revive Egyptian tourism.
For Internet observers in the West, the most important takeaway is the fact that the Egyptian military turned to Facebook for dissemination of propaganda rather than the larger web. In fact, the official Egyptian Armed Forces webpage seems stuck in the late 1990s. For the Egyptian junta, the future is clear: If you want to reach the masses, you stick with Facebook.