Was social media usage the main reason why Egypt's Mubarak resigned from the Presidency of Egypt? No. It was a combination of Mubarak's dictatorial rule, routine police brutality, a suspended constitution, and poor living conditions for the average Egyptian that fueled the revolution. However, social media platforms and technologies such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and texting enabled the Egyptian people to political crowdsource and communicate with each other to discuss their unhappiness with Mubarak's 30 year reign and to coordinate a strategy to try to create change.
Social Media terrifies every single dictatorship in the Middle East along with China and Russia. When the U.S. and European news outlets started covering the beginning of the Egyptian protests against Mubarak's rule, I noticed that China's and Russia's main news outlets were relatively quiet. At first, I thought I may have been reviewing the wrong websites. However, soon after I observed this lack of coverage by these two countries I read an article that discussed this same observation.
The brutal killing and cover up of businessman Khaled Said in Egypt in June of 2010 was the spark that started the beginning of the end of Mubarak's rule. A leaked photo of Mr. Said's mutilated corpse along with Mr. Said's family and friend's persistence in trying to learn the truth about his death ignited the fire that eventually engulfed Mubarak. A Facebook page about Khaled Said enraged and united Egyptians against Mubarak's rule. The lessons learned from the failed Iranian Revolution after the 2009 elections, and from the recent Tunisian revolution emboldened millions of Egyptians.
In just 18 months, people in the Middle East have learned how to harness the power of social media to work to create political change. During this time, the economy has generally not been great throughout the world and people are more willing to push for institutional change when the economy is in poor shape. When times are prosperous people are less likely to protest and demand a change in leadership. However, when the average citizen is tired of poor living conditions they have nothing to lose to try to change their political system.
It is too soon to tell if the change that social media has helped to foment in Egypt will make the world a safer and more democratic place. I hope that Egypt's Social Media Revolution begins a domino effect that creates more democratic governments that share the same ideals with and are willing to partner with the United States to make the world a better place to live.
To learn more about the legal, business, and political ramifications of social media you may contact me at www.shearlaw.com.
Copyright 2011 by the Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC. All rights reserved.