Echoing the "War on Women" across the Atlantic, Islamists, particularly ultra-conservative Salafists, have launched a far more vicious offensive against Egyptian women, which has played itself out on the streets, in the form of violence and blaming the victim for the crime she endured.
In the Arab world this winter, social media proved that it can facilitate rebellion and even topple regimes. Now it faces a much harder challenge. Can social media help to build new governments?
While the claims of social media as a democratizing tool may well be overstated, what the unrest in Egypt did show are the ways in which social media and Twitter in particular are transforming both media coverage and human rights documentation.
In response to Mubarak stepping down, President Obama delivered a pitch perfect speech calling for "nothing less than genuine democracy," not just a government aligned with U.S. interests. There will be many foreign policy takeaways from Egypt, but here's an obvious one: invading a country, toppling its regime, destroying civil society, and then trying to put all the pieces back together with a ten-year occupation and a few trillion dollars turns out not to be the only way to increase the spread of democracy in the Middle East. Wired was more effective than warred. People can now connect to each other faster than any government can connect with its people. And while governments may be able to shut down the hardware, they can't shut off the social effects of digital networks. Any leader who doesn't understand this dynamic should book a room next to wherever Mubarak is heading.
While the radio of the 1930's was the stammering George VI's proving ground, today we see new media amplifying the "king's speech" in Egypt. Except this time, the people are "king."
From my distant life in America, I have observed the Jasmine Revolution, the uprising in Cairo and Alexandria through friends' eyes via the bits of email and Facebook posts they can share.
A few months and seemingly a lifetime ago -- before the Oscar bait "The Social Network" hit theaters, before Time declared the Facebook cofounder and ...
With chaos still roiling Egypt, it's hard to tell if this uprising is Iran 1979, China 1989, or East Germany 1989. We'll have to wait and watch before we can know. But it's not too early to know that if America had done more to nurture a moderate opposition for the last 30 years, instead of choosing a strongman who sided with us over uncertain democracy, we might have some better choices right now. More importantly, so would the Egyptian people. Social media is once again playing an integral role in a popular uprising. Mubarak and his saber-wielding thugs have desperately tried to shut down the Internet and the press in a frantic attempt to keep the whole world from watching. But that's so much harder to do in the age of Twitter, Facebook, cell phone cameras, and YouTube uploads. These new media tools will play a key role in determining whether Tahrir Square 2011 is more Berlin Wall or more Tiananmen Square.
In response to the Egyptian government's actions, Google and Twitter launched a new service called Speak-to-Tweet.
A graphic from Renesys says it all, but the net tracking firm also spelled it out: "Egyptian Internet providers returned to the Internet at 09:29:31 UTC (11:29am Cairo time)."
All major Egyptian ISPs appear to have readvertised routes to their domestic customer networks in the global routing table. We can also confirm that Facebook and Twitter are up and available.
I have been reading tweets every day, but decided to select a few of the ones that most express what is being said at #egypt and #jan25.
It's oh so tempting for the mainstream media to give what's happening in Egypt a pithy label. But revolutions don't happen in cyberspace, they happen in the streets.
Internet service in Egypt is now totally shut down and there are reports that cell phone service has again been cut, but that won't stop people from finding ways to reach out and express themselves.
I grew up in Egypt. I spent half my life here. But Saturday, when my plane from JFK airport touched down in Cairo, I arrived in a different country than the one I had known all my life.
How helpful is social media? I don't think we know the answer to that yet, but it's worth noting that repressive regimes are pretty anxious to shut off access to it when movements get rolling.