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Guest Voice

In Egypt, YouTube Trumps Facebook

By Alaa Abd El Fattah

The Current Discussion: Egypt has detained a number of its citizens for using the social networking site Facebook to organize anti-government protests. What online sites are most effective in influencing politics -- and is the impact positive?

Until two years ago that would have been the Egyptian Blogs Aggregator (shameless plug here, since I created the Aggregator.)

It created a space where hundreds of Egyptians from different social and political backgrounds came together, fostered conversation and debate among bloggers and made it easier for activists and journalists to follow trends and news on blogs.

Through the aggregator, blogs were used to recruit for and engage with the pro-democracy movement Kefaya, to organize protests, strikes and sit-ins. The aggregator became a platform for various ambitious campaigns, from election monitoring to a broad anti-torture movement.

Although it’s still popular, today the aggregator is not as relevant. This is mainly due to the exponential rise in the number of Egyptian blogs; no one can keep up with them all anymore. But blogs are still at the heart of Egyptian cyber-activism, and citizen journalism through blogs remains the one consistently free source of information available.

Today the most effective political Web site would be YouTube. With the pervasiveness of mobile phone cameras, it is rare to hear of a human rights violation, a political event or a major incident that isn't accompanied with a mobile phone video published on YouTube.

Videos documenting police brutality in the streets and leaked videos of torture inside police stations published on YouTube were at the core of a strong anti-torture campaign and were effectively used as evidence in court. For the first time in Egyptian history, a powerful, well-connected police officer was sentenced for torturing a poor citizen. There are currently various similar cases, all centered around leaked video evidence. We now know that these videos had already reached several journalists, but they didn't dare broadcast them.

Most recently, when the industrial town of Mahalla was under press embargo as Egyptian security forces stormed town in an attempt to break an industrial strike and a political protest by force, killing at least three citizens and injuring dozens (not to mention the arrests), I counted over 60 videos of street violence in Mahalla published on YouTube. While some of the footage made it onto al-Jazeera and the BBC, the video of angry protesters tearing down a huge poster of president Mubarak can only be seen on YouTube.

But YouTube is not limited to mobile phone footage. Activists now regularly produce documentaries and interviews, and even art and humor, from the slick anti-Mubarak songs of Ahmad Sherif to funky satirical video ridiculing the government’s latest propaganda campaigns.

YouTube's effectiveness doesn't just lie in the easy ability to publish video but also the fact that it comes with its own enormous audience. Most people don't go around looking for police brutality videos, but with YouTube, they often stumble upon them.

Alaa Abd El Fattah is an Egyptian blogger, software developer, and democracy activist. Read his writings at manalaa.net.

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Comments (9)

Ibrahim Mahfouz:

I wish to state that I am not the same person who
calls himself Mahfouz Ibrahim, and that the name permutation is a mere coincidence. I do not know how much the US charges for its wheat and I could care less.

mahfuz ibrahim:

You didn't like my comment about the Egyptian government buying US Wheat for $400 and high quality Egyptian wheat for less than $80!

And you still post comments about Arabs loving pornography and Islam haters posting verses from the Holy Koran which has got nothing to do with the subject!!!!

What is it that you don't like about my posting? The fact that you are blood thirsty killers or you cannot handle a clear evidence of your naked hypocrisy.

mahfuz ibrahim:

To Anonymous

How about this. The Egyptian government pay $400 for a ton of US wheat and pays almost $80 for high quality Egyptian wheat. The US rednick farmer sleeps with his belly full and the Egyptian farmer dies in poverty!!!

The problem is that the Americans believe that they have a say in "advancing" Islam!!?????

Anonymous:

What happens in Egypt is that either a journalist or an opposition leader is imprisoned. The US embassy and the US media resent it. They run an old movie of lack of democracy, women circumcision, Coptic rights.

The prisoner is released. The government tells the people how democratic it is. It sells gas to the Israelis, who are killing women and children in Gaza with the collaboration of Egyptian president and forces, while Egyptians die in long rows just to get bread.

The result is US and Hosni Mobarak regime are democratic!!!!!!!!!

kene:

all of this means nothing. Jamal Mubarak will be the next president no matter what!

Arab leaders are far more powerful.Bloggers and other opposition stuff will not move them away.

the crimes commited by the israelis aginst the palestinians which are supported by the arab leader and the americans is the best example to show the hypocrisy of the americans and their so called democracy.

Pathetic:

Rules to using the Internet

#1 – NEVER…. And I mean NEVER use your real information for anything!
#2 – If you find yourself in the middle of a bullying lawsuit or arrested for posting your thoughts… You have violated rule # 1 and deserve any outcome that may come about.

Just because this is a “free” country to say what you want, don’t think for one instant that you will not be held liable if you are able to be personally identified…


Step #1 to regulating the internet….. COMPLETE.

J. Pantelis:

While You Tube is an effective means for exposing police brutality, and the videos can be used as evidence in a court, it also tragically exposes the corruption of the world to pornography which undermines the spiritual values of Christianity and Islam! While all seek freedom of speech, freedom comes with a cost and is not free. Pornography is ruining lives, not only for single persons, but married persons. It is almost impossible to use You Tube and not have pornography appear. We will all experience the negative and destructive influence of You Tube as well as pornographic sites on the internet that have corroded the moral values of the world. Nothing is sacred any more.

PGR88:

Not surprising - from what I have seen, Arabs love porn as much or more than other cultures, and given their mostly restrictive societies - youtube and the net are quite an outlet for that thing.

Anonymous:

Holy Quran 4:34

Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and beat them up. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Lo! Allah is ever High, Exalted, Great.

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