Following Egypt’s story on Twitter, YouTube

By Anne Collier

We have been watching history happening in realtime this weekend with the unprecedented help of social media. To me, this 3:30 video interview with Waseem Wagdi, an Egyptian in the crowd outside his country’s embassy in London, says it all – what’s on Mr. Wagdi’s face and in his words is clearly what’s in his heart and many others’. Most of the short video is in English, but he speaks in Arabic at the very end. One commenter on the video’s page in YouTube (the second one down) translates the Arabic, saying Wagdi’s quoting parts of “a famous Palestinian poem by Tawfiq Zayyad called ‘Unadikum’ (‘I Call Upon You’).” If you read the poem’s lines on that page, you’ll see it makes sense Wagdi chose that poem to cap off what he says about “Egypt’s heroes” in the streets of Cairo.

Mention of that video came via email from a thoughtful friend in London, but my main news pipeline has been Twitter, with additional important bits and snatches of news via email, Facebook, and the Web at large, particularly blog posts from Sarah Carr, a journalist in Cairo (don’t miss today’s (Sunday’s) – and, with historical and Middle East regional context from Lebanese experts in democracy and law (see “Letter to Barack Obama on the Nile Revolution” on the home page). In Twitter I’ve been following tweets from @benCNN in Cairo, @ajenglish (English-language Al Jazeera), Andy Carvin at National Public Radio (retweeting tweets from the streets of Cairo – thank you so much, Andy), and through them so many citizen reporters on the ground. You can “subscribe” to my Twitter stream by clicking “Follow” here (I usually don’t tweet that much but felt compelled to retweet what seemed the most meaningful developments and observations in the constant flow of news tweeted from Cairo and other locations). My co-director Larry Magid has been following the Egypt story too, particularly the Mubarak government’s efforts to disconnect Egyptians from the Internet and cellphone service late last week. It was one leaky firewall, apparently. In the Huffington Post Friday, Larry wrote that Facebook said it saw “a significant drop-off” in Egyptian traffic on its site Friday, but not all of it, and San Francisco-based social site, which has 200,000 active members in Egypt, had a similar report for Larry, saying traffic was lower but still there. For an in-depth view of the role of social media, successful and not so, in recent revolutions, see Clay Shirky’s article in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs (I was interested in his recommendation that the US take an “environmental” not an “instrumental” approach to statesmanship), and watch for its important Middle Eastern perspective.

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