Jan25 Revolution and Content of Egyptian Cyberspace

Since 2004, Egyptian netizens and bloggers were able to highly utilize online platforms in different areas. Many taboos were broken through online spaces enabling offline media to address several topics that where considered “red-line”. These topics included torture in police stations, sexual harassment issues, religious minorities, violations committed by personages pro-Mubarak… etc.

During the revolution, the Egyptian cyberspace was extremely rich in terms of content provided which took different forms of text, videos and pictures. Two main things affected the content of the cyberspace, the first was what’s happened on the ground and the second was the accessibility to communications platforms.

The time from 14 January to 24 January 2011, netizens kept sending invitations to demonstrate on 25 January, which is the National Police Day in Egypt, against corruption, unemployment and torture. Netizens posted human rights reports and statements on human rights status, video-clips of different torture cases, pictures and footage from previous peaceful assemblies, motivations to join the demonstrations, legal and medical tips for participants in peaceful assemblies, tactics for using online platforms and cell phones, locations and timings of demonstrations on January 25, spreading hotlines numbers for providing immediate legal and medical help by human rights NGOs.

From 25 January to 6 February 2011 Egyptians went through sequential crackdown on communications platforms. Activists mobile lines and hotlines number were shutdown, social websites (including twitter.com, facebook.com, bambuser.com) and other newspapers websites were blocked, short message service (SMS) was shutdown, mobile phone-calls service was shutdown on different intervals, landlines didn’t work in some areas in Cairo and internet connection shutdown. Later on, when communications where restored gradually netizens posted on what happened when communications was shutdown and content showing violations and violence committed against peaceful demonstrators.

Communications was one of the main challenges Egyptians faced, challenge to circulate information between Egyptians inside Egypt and to pass information out of the country.

Before the internet was totally blocked, some activists were able to manage internet access point to post information, videos and pictures from demonstrations and to cover what is happening offline. This is was very important to enable the entire world to understand what is really happening and to prove the government was just spreading rumors and false information. There was, and still, big gap between what individuals post and circulate online and what state-media broadcast and publish. Gap in terms of information and multi-media posted. For example, when netizens and activists posted online pictures of hundreds of thousands demonstrators in Tahrir Square, the state-media was showing a picture of almost an empty Tahrir Square!.

During the revolution, online platforms were the only space where Egyptians could share what they really faced and went through. Its different nowadays, but still online platforms in some cases is almost the only space where Egyptians can address some topics that offline platforms can’t like human rights violations committed by military officers.

Content posted online on different platforms is now helping -and sometimes putting pressure on- offline platforms to address particular topics.

It’s important not to magnify the role of internet and online tools during the revolution; the Egyptian revolution is not “facebook revolution” or “web 2.0 revolution” or similar meaningless terms. Online platforms were the media-arm for Egyptians during the revolution, a space for Egyptians to share their experiences, thoughts and a space to show the truth of what happened.


Egypt: Timeline of Communication Shutdown during the Revolution

Click on the image to enlarge

About: diagram to illustrate sequence of communications shutdown Egyptians went through from 25 January to 06 February 2011. Times mentioned are according to Egypt local time. Numbers in the diagram are approximate. Diagram gets updated with info when possible. (last update October 2011)

Official Numbers, Jan 2011:  Internet Users 23.51 Million - Mobile Subscribers 71.45 Million.

Reports, Jan 2011: Facebook Users 4,634,600  (7.6% of population).
Reports, Jan-March 2011: avg. Twitter Users: 131,204 (0,15% of population).

رسم توضيحي لقطع خدمات الاتصالات في الثورة
هذ الرسم يوضح تتابع قطع خدمات الاتصالات التي مر بها المصريين في الفترة ما بين 25 يناير إلي 2011 إلي 6 فبراير 2011. المواقيت المذكورة وفقا لتوقيت القاهرة والأرقام المذكورة تقريبية. يتم تحديث الرسم عند الوصول لمعلومات أدق أو جديدة. (اخر تحديث: أكتوبر 2011)