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The Power of Social Media and Protests in Egypt

2011 January 31

From Fox News

With rocks and sticks in hand, thousands of Egyptians are organizing in the streets of Cairo to protest the regime of President Hosni Mubarak along with the widening gap between the rich and poor and the large percentage of  jobless youth.  President Mubarak has been in power since 1981 and the Egyptian people are ready for change.  These demonstrations were inspired somewhat by the nearby riots in Tunisia that successfully removed Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali after ruling for 23 years.  The current nature of the protests in Cairo is said to be one of excitement for a new Egypt, one with hope and possibility, without deteriorating economic conditions, rampant corruption and oppression.

The importance of social media shines through in Egypt’s current situation, especially as the government’s grip tightens on social media outlets, which have been utilized to organize some of the demonstrations.  In addition to completely banning all protests, reports suggest that the government has blocked Facebook and Twitter.  Protesters were using the hashtag, used for searching a common topic, #Jan25 to communicate through Twitter.  While these social media outlets are no longer accessible for those participating in the demonstrations, protests continue to take place.  Limiting internet access is clearly no challenge to the strength of this movement.

It may be too soon to predict if the outcome of these protests will lead to political change, social justice and equal distribution of wealth, but this has certainly proven the power of communication and social media.  Further exemplifying the influence of social media is the television series The Station.  This soap opera addresses controversial social issues as well as solutions to move Egypt in a constructive direction.  Episodes address daily issues for the people of Egypt, such as youth unemployment, corruption, democratization and privatization.  The goal of this Search for Common Ground production is to provide hope for a better future as well as practical tools to achieve that vision.

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