I can say with 95 percent confidence that when Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook in 2005, he did not create it with the purpose of sparking political revolutions. Yet, it seems that in 2011, Facebook is doing exactly that.
If it holds true to its early form, 2011 just may be remembered as the Year of the Revolution. Feeling the aftermath of Tunisia overthrewing its government in late 2010, Egypt just deposed President Hosni Mubarak from power, and it seems that Algeria, Libya and other African and Middle Eastern nations may soon follow.
Political revolutions are nothing new. It’s just that in 2011 Facebook and Twitter have overtaken the traditional outlets of print and television as the conduits for political protest across the Middle East.
Which is why Newsweek’s piece on Wael Ghonim, Google’s head of marketing for the Middle East and Africa, is so fascinating.
There is always that one still image that defines a revolution and marks its beginning.
Khaled Said was a businessman who was beaten to death by local police after using Facebook to disseminate a video of police stealing pot from a drug bust.
The beating was captured on film and disseminated around the web when Ghonim saw it, and inspired, he created a Facebook page titled “We Are All Khaled Said” in Said’s honor.
Running the page as “El Baradei”, or the Martyr, Ghonim was able to convince 50,000 people to attend the “revolution” on Facebook. The most interesting line of the article comes on page 3,
In another conversation, he mocked the idea that any politician could corral the growing protest push. “A virtual guy that they don’t know is telling them what to do,” he said. “I have the people on my side.”
What is so extraordinary, is that Ghonim was able to translate virtual support into tangible support by using the Facebook page to promote democratic ideals and schedule and organize individual demonstrations.
“El Baradei” was the perfect storm of Ghonim’s expertise and the unfortunate death of a businessman – Khaled Said was viewed as a martyr for dying to uncover injustice by the local police, and Wael Ghonim used his marketing savvy to channel the online frustrations of Egyptians into productive demonstration.
Wael Ghonim was just one example of an individual exerting influence on a network of people. No doubt, there were hundreds, if not thousands of individuals exerting influence on their neighbors, family, friends, strangers, and fellow Egytpians to participate in the revolution.
What do you make of the revolution in Egypt? Do you think you have what it takes to spark a revolution?