What sparked my interest in social media as a form of digitally fueled activism was an incident that happened in June of 2010 and is accredited for stimulating the revolution in Cairo.
On June 6, 2010 Khaled Mohamed Saeed, a young Egyptian man, died after being arrested by Egyptian police for supposed theft and weapons possession. Witnesses claimed that Saeed was arrested by two detectives in Alexandria, Egypt who then took Saeed outside and beat him to death. The police report on the other hand, claimed that Saeed died from suffocation in attempt to swallow a bag of hash. However, the former chief medical examiner of Egypt, Ayman Fouda, stated that the injuries found to Saeed’s body should have been investigated further during the autopsy. According to Saeed’s family, Saeed was beaten to death because he possessed video material that implicated members of the Egyptian police in a drug deal.
So why is this death so important to the revolution of Cairo? After Saeed’s death, his brother leaked a mobile picture of his beaten corpse on the Internet and a human rights outcry spread across the globe. Protestors rallied together against this police brutality and what may have been even more significant was the creation of the Facebook page We Are All Khaled Said by Google executive Wael Ghonim.
This Facebook page was used as a bullhorn to rally protestors. It’s constant updates on the revolution helped keep protestors informed. However, on January 27, 2011, Wael Ghonim posts the last message on his Twitter account saying that the Egyptian police would arrest him. The next day Ghonim was taken by four men while trying to hail a taxicab and was blindfolded and held for twelve days.
The page We Are All Khaled Said rallied protestors in Egypt and further motivated them after Ghonim’s arrest. Another Facebook page was created on February 8, 2011 that called for Ghonim to be the spokesperson for a number of anti-government groups. More than 190,000 people have joined it. It is apparent that social media is having an impact on political movements, but what are the consequences? Police brutality and the silencing of millions of online voices? It is apparent that social media has the ability to motivate protestors, but the issue of violence is still relevant even on the Internet. As social media gains a greater role in political protest, those using it should take the issue of increasing violence into consideration.