A never before seen transparency swept the nation just days before as Egyptians watched a live televised presidential debate unfold. On Wednesday, voters headed to the polls to elect their country’s first president since the ousting of Hosni Mubarak, who ruled Egypt from 1981 until the Arab Spring of 2011.
Today, voters chose between 13 different candidates, each representing all ends of the Egyptian political spectrum, from conservative Islam to liberal Democratic reform to somewhere in the middle.
Egypt’s revolution was different from anything ever before experienced in human history. Unlike other protests and uprisings, this one was especially unique due to the transparency revealed by the increase and availability of new technology.
It was social media that drove and assembled much of the revolution. Hashtags went from being a way to tag a fun or silly topic on Twitter to actual symbols of solidarity, protest and revolution.
On January 25, 2011, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in Cairo, converging on Tahrir Square in an uprising of free expression, civil resistance and a demand to overthrow President Mubarak. Twitter and Facebook were the social media platforms that helped assembled the historic uprising that was deemed by many “The Twitter Revolution.”
Social media, something that was relatively new on the world scene, had for the first time been used to overthrow a government and demand what it embodied: free expression.
Egypt was a country that lived under both a comatose and cognizant oppression with very little freedom. But the spread and accessibility of the Internet brought about a means of lucidity and free expression that had never before occurred. The voice of the average Egyptian could be amplified, with the potential to gather an audience, assemble a crowd, and share an idea. People had become their own publishers with a free available platform to broadcast their right to be heard.
As the Arab Spring swelled and ignited throughout the region, people became connected to the global community via the web, spreading a wave of global transparency.
When the Internet and iPhones were made available to a country that had lived under oppressive conditions, and a suppressed culture began awakening to their censorship, the only logical outcome was revolution.
When Julian Assange’s whistleblower website WikiLeaks released State Department cables exposing the corruption of the Tunisian regime, did anyone know it would act as both a trigger and a tool for political outcry?
When one Tunisian demonstrator set himself ablaze to protest his government, did he realize that the spark from the match he had lit would eventually spread throughout the region and then the entire world? From Tunisia to Egypt, to Libya, Bahrain, Syria, Europe and America to the Occupy movement, the world has witnessed and continues to witness its first real cyber revolution.
If it weren’t for the Internet Revolution, free expression wouldn’t exist as it does today.
Where once powerful governments and corporations dominated without question or revolt, today they face the beginning of a power grab by the people. For the first time, clout and influence has begun to shift from the world’s elite to people like Egyptian protesters and vigilante hacker groups like Anonymous.
When Mubarak shut-down Egypt’s Internet during the initial revolution, it was Anonymous that shut-down the online presence of the Egyptian government, hacking and defacing the websites.
In the end, if it weren’t for Egyptians demanding their voices heard, much of what we talk and write about now would not exist. In a sense, we owe it all to the web, the greatest tool for free speech and expression, but in another sense, we owe it all to Egypt.
Infinity News Network saw the 2011 Egyptian revolution embody its core emphasis. It was on January 25, 2012, a year after the massive historic gathering in Tahrir Square, that the idea of #INN was born. So yes, we at Infinity owe our inspiration to Egypt’s courage.
As Egypt struggles to define itself and its version of democracy and freedom, so does the rest of this brave new world grapple with the very same issues of new defining due to technology and free expression; Egypt just being the physical embodiment of the global change.