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Impact of Facebook on the Egyptian Revolution

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Many people around the world remember that day when hundreds of Egyptians were gathered on the Tahrir square in Cairo, trying to improve the future of Egypt. This scenario was not only noticeable in Egypt, but citizens from many Arab countries came together and demonstrated in order to improve the policy in their countries. It is argued that in for mation and communication technologies, such as the internet, social media and mobile phones have played an important role during the demonstrations in the Middle East and North Africa (Comninos, 2011; Haddadi, 2011, as cited in Mansour, 2012). Information and communication technologies helped achieve many goals that the participants of the demonstrations during the Arab Spring were trying to achieve. The authorities that tried to control the demonstrations in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt by withholding social media, didn’t achieve any success whatsoever by trying to do so (Niekerk et al., 2011, as cited in Mansour, 2012). This essay is going to focus on Egypt and will hereby investigate the impact that Facebook had on the establishment and development of the Egyptian revolution, that began on 25 January 2011.

To investigate whether Facebook had an impact on the Egypt revolutions, it is important to be aware of Internet penetration and particularly Facebook penetration in Egypt. Table I shows the extent of the usage of different forms of ICTs in Arabic countries. The Table is based on statistics retrieved from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), United Nations the Arab Media Outlook and the Arab Social Media Report (Mansour, 2012).

As can be seen in the table above, the Facebook penetration per 100 habitants is not very high, but it is also not very low. This means that many people in Egypt do use Facebook, but not to a large extent. Due to the fact that Facebook provided an Arabic language service in March 2009, early political bloggers could now connect with each other and discuss certain occasions in their country. The introduction of the Arabic language service on Facebook was one of the most important happenings in the alteration of the Egyptian public sphere (Tufekci & Wilson, 2012). The launch of Arabic Facebook in 2009 had propelled the Facebook users in Egypt from approximately 900,000 in January 2009 to 5 million Facebook users in 2010. (The Telegraph, 2009; Wright, 2011, as cited in Lim,2012). There are more Facebook users than newspaper readers in Egypt and Facebook is the most accessed website in Egypt after Google (Lim, 2012).

The role of Facebook and the Egyptian revolution

A study has been conducted to investigate whether the Facebook had an important impact on the establishment of the Egyptian revolution (Tufekci & Wilson, 2012). It is stated that more than a quarter of the protestors the researchers had investigated heard about the demonstrations on Facebook for the first time and another quarter of the protestors used Facebook to post pictures and Facebook which were created during the protests. The protestors which were attendant during the first day of the Egyptian revolution, 25 January 2011, were more likely to communicate about the protests using Facebook or another social media tool and usin Using satellite television as a general information source was associated with a lower possibility of joining the first day of the protests, because other resources of communication, such as social media, supplied more information about the protests (Tufekci & Wilson, 2012). The role of Facebook, in the Egyptian demonstrations can be assumed through its relationship to social networks and mobilization instruments. In Egypt’s oppositional movements, social media (Facebook in particular) supplied the tool for the creation and the growth of networks that the authoritarian government of Egypt could not regulate easily (Lim, 2012).

Due to Facebook, networks of labor opposition could be maintained as well as new connections among the youth that could be facilitated and by supplying the circulation of stories about regime suppression and police cruelty (Lim, 2012). Facebook was used to agent networks between groups that were disconnect previously, to share information about shared complaints beyond the little community of activist leaders, and to reach out to the whole world to show there is a demonstration going on. Social media, particularly Facebook, assisted a large group of people for civic engagement and eventually political change, particularly by extending towards the unemployment of the country (Lim, 2012).

Facebook was not the only or even the most important component of information of political mobilization or civic engagement, which eventually led to the fall of Mubarak, but it fit well with other information networks that were beyond the control of the authoritarian government (Lim, 2012). Facebook was an important tool for women , whereas women were able to express their feeling, opinions and pictures through Facebook. It allowed them to participate in political activity, even when they were not able to attend meetings or when they felt that certain circumstances disheartened them to speak up. In general, men were overrepresented during the demonstrations due to cultural values in Egypt. However, due to Facebook, women were still able to engage themselves in the demonstrations and the political process by interacting with other demonstrators and people who were interested (Tufekci & Wilson, 2012).

However, it is discussed that Facebook did not have an important impact in order for the Egyptian revolution to establish and maintain. Due to the fact that protest movements and politically active groups were already existing during 2001, it can be stated that Facebook did not have an important impact on the Egyptian revolution. An important movement in this case was the Kefaya movement, which was called the April 6th movement after some happenings and The Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptian revolution would have been established without the help of Facebook according to this theory (Lim, 2012). Nevertheless, through Facebook, the April 6th movement had changed this movement to a more participatory culture and many young Egyptians were aware of this group and joined it. Not only because they were politically active, but more because they were curious or friends asked them to join.


Through Facebook, awareness about certain happenings was established and citizens became more active (Lim, 2012). Because of Facebook, there was a form of cohesive civic engagement and people felt they were part of one large group. Facebook has had, as can be seen above, a large impact on the establishment of the Egyptian revolution. It made people active and created mobilization, which is an important component of establishment and expansion of civic engagement. It is important to be aware of the fact that social media can have a large impact on contemporary society. Nowadays social media, such as Facebook, have become important components in making citizens aware and keeping citizens abreast of certain matters (Mansour, 2012). Facebook can serve as a watchdog of the mainstream media controlled by the government, whereby certain information that citizens post on Facebook which is not distributed by the state owned media can still be distributed in the international news. (Cottle, 2011). Facebook played an important role in distributing news content, whereby Egyptian citizens kept updating communication flows and images direct from the protests themselves. Aljazeera was aware of this communication flow and reported much of this content which was provided by the Egyptians through Facebook.

This way of distributing content was not only used by Aljazeera in the Middle East, but media companies throughout the whole world had the same strategy of acquiring updates of the Egyptian revolts. This news content made people all over the globe aware of this revolution, whereby the Egyptian citizens received much support regarding civic engagement of the Egyptians (Mansour, 2012). Thus, one can see that Facebook cannot only have such a large impact on national level, but due to the fact that Facebook is an international social network site, it had an enormous effect on international level which makes it important to be aware of. Nowadays, it is impossible for a citizen in the current Information age to distance him or herself from communication technologies and social media as a whole. Facebook that can serve as a tool to maintain the drive of citizens to achieve democracy through political change will definitely still have an important meaning, especially for the establishment and maintenance of civil society and the steps toward democratic advance.

Facebook is a perfect place for citizens to discuss with one another and citizens can express themselves in a free manner. Accordingly, Facebook can constitute a public sphere whereby citizens deliberatively communicate with one another. Moreover, Facebook can have an important role in the future during political commotion among citizens who want certain regulations to change. Establishing and maintaining civil society is what makes Facebook an important aspect in this process. Social platforms such as Facebook can develop civic engagement and through platforms such as Facebook, Egyptians are writing their own stories again and they make announcements to make change in a peaceful way while demanding universal rights, such as the right to vote. Egyptian youth seem to be taking the region in a new path, while using social media such as Facebook (Ghannam, 2011, as cited in Mansour, 2011). Social media tools have brought current democracy to another level and on condition that citizens will be able to have access to these tools, governments will not, as they could in the past, be able to strongly influence public opinion (Cottle, 2011).

Nowadays, citizens are interconnected through social media, such as Facebook and compared to ten years ago, they can communicate easily with one another and create discussions about politics, governments and certain happenings in the world. This global civil society can maintain its existence without the help of the government nor the mass media. Accordingly, this global civil society is dependent on social media, which has a global character, whereby members of the global civil society are connected with one another while trying to establish global cooperation (Castells, 2008). In the context of this essay, this cooperation can be seen as active and inactive support of social network users. The global public sphere that can be created in this manner would not be able to exist without the help of social media such as Facebook. This global public sphere has not only affected the Egyptian revolution, but also other revolutions in the Arab region, such as the Jasmine revolution, the Syrian revolution and the Libyan civil war. Castells (2008) points out an interesting statement regarding the global public sphere: “Not everything or everyone is globalized, but the global networks that structure the planet affect everything and everyone” (p. 81).

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