x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Role of Facebook in Egyptian revolution 'overstated'

The real credit for the fall of a regime should lie with the hundreds of thousands who took to the streets in protest, one of the country's leading bloggers has said.

DUBAI // In a country where a newborn baby was named "Facebook" in honour of the role played by the social networking site in coordinating a revolution, the esteem with which many Egyptians may hold Mark Zuckerberg cannot be overstated.

However, the real credit for the fall of a regime should lie with the hundreds of thousands who took to the streets in protest, one of the country's leading bloggers said yesterday.

At a debate in Dubai, Mahmoud Salem - better known to his 27,500 followers as "Sandmonkey" - said that the role of Facebook was overstated.

"It's fine to sign up to attend an event on Facebook, but if you don't have the same will to go out on the streets and actually follow up on it, it's useless," he said.

"It shouldn't be called a social media revolution. The initial call brought out half-a-million people. Then they shut down the internet and cell phones. The rest of the battle was fought on the street and through genuine human networking."

Mr Salem was in the emirate attending the inaugural session of Dubai Debates - an online video debate platform set up to foster discussion on topical issues in the Arab world.

"There's a critical mass of people all over the world who are participating in the discourse, it's interesting to bring them together," said Belabbes Benkredda, an Algerian-German who founded the start-up organisation.

The debate, entitled "Mark Zuckerberg - the new hero of the Arab people" created a lively discussion on the role of social media in demonstrations. Footage from yesterday will be broken into thematic sections then circulated on blogs and social networking sites to foster further debate, said Mr Benkredda.

Mr Salem, whose blog became a key mobilising force in the revolution, revealed his true identity shortly after being arrested and savagely beaten by security forces.

mcroucher@thenational.ae