A Tool Of Revolution

16 07 2008

URL: http://www.newsweek.com/id/145835. Source: Newsweek. By Lily Huang.

A Tool Of Revolution

The failure of a Facebook protest in Egypt common to new technologies that seem ready to change the world, but not yet.

On April 6 in El Mahalla, Egypt, thousands of people showed up for a demonstration in solidarity with striking textile workers to protest skyrocketing food prices. It gave many participants a nostalgic whiff of the bread riots of 1977, but what enabled that unexpected return to the past was a phenomenon of the future: a Facebook group for the event numbering more than 75,000 members. The precedent emboldened activists to start another Facebook group to stage a second protest to coincide with Hosni Mubarak’s 80th birthday on May 4.

With tens of thousands flocking to the Facebook page, activists were anticipating another day of triumphal havoc. On May 4, however, the streets of Cairo were quiet.
What happened? Facebook was supposed to be a revolutionary tool of organizers, a powerful new way of tapping a global support network of dissidents and uniting them in opposition to harsh governments. In Egypt, however, the agitators are a disillusioned bunch. The failure of their “click-here activism,” says a Cairo human-rights expert who spoke anonymously because of the sensitivity of the issue, has shown “the limitations of social-networking sites as a tool for organizing real-world protests.”

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