Governments panic at the sound of facebook, especially if the government is despotic and corrupt like Egypt under Mubarak, or Syria under Assad. Governments want to believe that they are popular and more importantly they desperately want to be the sole recipients of peoples’ love, sympathy and admiration. Mass people, governments hope, should not have any alternative power source in control of their affairs. That would mark the end of any government’s legitimacy.
In 1971, there was only one ruler in East Pakistan, and it was’nt Yahya. Someone had captured the hearts and minds of the common man and held their attention in his powerful grip. He could order them to do anything. One man had mesmerized and hypnotized an entire nation. Generals just never understood the power of mass popularity.
Mubarak, like Yahya, fell in that same trap. He too thought he could bulldoze his compatriots to surrender to his will. He thought he could control Egypt from his headquarters in Heliopless. Mubarak was deaf, dumb and blind. He did not see Tahrir Square as the heart of Egypt which controlled his country. It happened that way because that’s where all the emotions and thoughts and feelings of the people converged. Mubarak was cut off from the people. Tahrir Square represented the people. How was this brilliant revolution being organized?
The Arab Spring starting from Tunisia down to Yemen is being organized and lead from cyber space by social networking sites. Facebook, twitter, blogs and other such sites are the fuel for the engine of new revolution. Facebook and twitter on mobiles is a more accurate definition of this fuel.
Arab societies are under brutal dictatorships, although the age of secret police is over, they are still not yet free from tyranny. Without a device to encrypt and send messages secretly there would have been no Arab Spring to start with. The burning of BouAziza was recorded and posted on facebook. That post got sent around the network bringing angry youth to secretly gather at Tunis for a showdown with Ben Ali’s forces. The corrupt secret police of Ben Ali could not track the organizers because they were using internet based technology and always changing their locations in anticipation of a crackdown.
Wael Ghonim used facebook accounts to spread police torture and killing of an Egyptian called Khaled. Egyptian youth learned the trick very quickly from Tunisia. They used facebook and twitter to organize the youth into one massive movement that galvanized at Tahrir Square astonishing the whole world. The power of revolutions through internet had just begun. Mubarak, Ben Ali, Ghaddafi, Ali Abdallah Saleh and now Assad can owe their disgraceful end partly to social networking sites.
It is very well expected that despots and dictators would like to ban social networking from their countries. But why is the British government thinking about draconian laws to limit facebook and other social sites?
Last summer in the wake of the London riots, British Prime Minister David Cameron insisted that the government should have the power to censor social media and “stop [alleged rioters] from communicating via these websites”. That sounded more like Mubarak than Cameroon