Friday, July 18, 2008

Egypt's Facebook Face Off

While it's supposed to be a social networking site, Facebook has become the front line tool for the country's struggling democracy movement, as Sophie McNeill reports.

Young democracy activists have flocked to the social networking site, to choreograph widespread protests against President Hosni Mubarrak's 27-year rule.It's the perfect tool for them to voice their opinions, especially in a country that outlaws gatherings of more than five people. With the use of blog sites, Facebook and YouTube, their messages can now be projected globally.“They were horrified by Facebook because it was something totally new that they could not control,” says Nadia, a key promoter of a recent day-long general strike in which three protestors were shot dead and 400 were jailed, including her.McNeill manages to track down one of the co-creators of the Facebook page that promoted the recent strike. He's on the run from threats of imprisonment and rape. A few days later, he is dragged off the street by plain-clothed police to be detained and beaten at security headquarters. Upon his release he says;“All the questions were about people who were members of the Facebook group…this issue of the password made them take off my trousers…saying they would rape me…They were saying ‘think we can’t catch you? We can’. And they wanted to close the Facebook group and control the whole thing.”