Two leaders of Egypt's youth movement described this evening how they combined non-violent ideals with online social networking to nurture labor and democracy protests over a three-year period, culminating in the massive Cairo protests and the February ouster of strongman Hosni Mubarak.
"Facebook was used--as everywhere else--to exchange photos and other things. We thought we could use it as a political platform," said Ahmed Maher, a civil engineer and a leader of youth movement. He spoke through a translator to about 200 people at an event at MIT's Media Lab
In 2008, Maher and others tried to organize a general strike in an industrial city called El-Mahalla El-Kubra, in part through blogs, text-messages, and a Facebook page. This was known as the "April 6 Youth Movement" because it sought a strike on that date. Their Facebook announcement spread rapidly. "We sent it to 300 members and by end of the day we had 3,000 members. By the end of ten days we had 70,000 members," he said. "People asked 'What can we do?' We said to spread the idea as far and wide as we can."