Facebook Activism in Egypt: The Khaled Said Page

Boston Review has an indepth pair of interviews with the Egyptian activists who ran a central hub of a Facebook page — “We Are All Khaled Said” — during the length of the protests in Egypt.  Ahmed Saleh and Nadine Wahab made the page in the wake of the death of the 28 year old Egyptian Khaled Mohamed Said, who died while in police custody. 

The interview goes into depth on the travails of running a Facebook page during the protests, what risks they ended up facing, and what role Facebook played in the protests.

One clip of it:

Ahmed Saleh: My favorite story was definitely during the revolution when I was administering the page all by myself. It was well known by then that our page was the one that was mainly responsible for the call and the initial mobilization for the revolution. On January 28 the Internet was cut from the whole country, and even cell phones were cut. When access returned I got in touch with Nadine Wahab in the United States, who granted me access to administer the page. I got scared. Everyone was getting online at that moment to check what the Khaled Said page was saying, and I thought “I really don’t want this responsibility.”

When I got online, I discovered that the page membership had increased an additional 40,000 during the Internet block. I guessed that the security apparatus must have had access during this time, and that they installed robots to spam our page, a tactic that they were using since we started. This time it was serious. There was a massive attack on myself as the anonymous administrator of the page. Accusations of being a foreign agent deceiving the masses into turning their country into chaos so that Israel (or sometimes Iran) would take over, were all over the page. Every post I would make, I would receive tens of thousands of comments, mostly attacks against me.

First, I was very defensive, returning accusations against the organized online security robots. It never worked. After a day or two, I switched strategy completely: focus on the people in Tahrir Square (the target of all the slander on the page at that time), utilize humor (which abounded in the Egyptian revolution), focus on the positive. I would go to Tahrir, capture photos of people half naked, writing on their bodies slogans like “(Mubarak) Please, leave ASAP. I ran out of paper begging you to do so!”

The strategy surprisingly worked. People would not attack me anymore and the focus of the conversation was more on the pride of being Egyptian.”