Intersections of the 3. By Margaret Hagan

Posts Tagged: Facebook

Social Media Law’s Development, an Infographic

Social Media Law’s Development, an Infographic


What Syrian Activists want from Silicon Valley

What Syrian Activists want from Silicon Valley



Boston Review has an indepth pair of interviews with the Egyptian activists who ran a central hub of a Facebook page — “We Are All Khaled Said” — during the length of the protests in Egypt.  Ahmed Saleh and Nadine Wahab made the page in the wake of the death of the 28 year old Egyptian Khaled Mohamed Said, who died while in police custody. 

The interview goes into depth on the travails of running a Facebook page during the protests, what risks they ended up facing, and what role Facebook played in the protests.

One clip of it:

Ahmed Saleh: My favorite story was definitely during the revolution when I was administering the page all by myself. It was well known by then that our page was the one that was mainly responsible for the call and the initial mobilization for the revolution. On January 28 the Internet was cut from the whole country, and even cell phones were cut. When access returned I got in touch with Nadine Wahab in the United States, who granted me access to administer the page. I got scared. Everyone was getting online at that moment to check what the Khaled Said page was saying, and I thought “I really don’t want this responsibility.”

When I got online, I discovered that the page membership had increased an additional 40,000 during the Internet block. I guessed that the security apparatus must have had access during this time, and that they installed robots to spam our page, a tactic that they were using since we started. This time it was serious. There was a massive attack on myself as the anonymous administrator of the page. Accusations of being a foreign agent deceiving the masses into turning their country into chaos so that Israel (or sometimes Iran) would take over, were all over the page. Every post I would make, I would receive tens of thousands of comments, mostly attacks against me.

First, I was very defensive, returning accusations against the organized online security robots. It never worked. After a day or two, I switched strategy completely: focus on the people in Tahrir Square (the target of all the slander on the page at that time), utilize humor (which abounded in the Egyptian revolution), focus on the positive. I would go to Tahrir, capture photos of people half naked, writing on their bodies slogans like “(Mubarak) Please, leave ASAP. I ran out of paper begging you to do so!”

The strategy surprisingly worked. People would not attack me anymore and the focus of the conversation was more on the pride of being Egyptian.”



Many cities are using “311 Apps” on mobile devices or on Facebook to let citizens report basic city problems — potholes, graffiti, etc — to their local representatives.  They can supply the details, photos, and requests directly to the city official that should be responding to them.

It also allows citizens a better way to track the progress of their request & keep statistics on the officials’ responses. People can also map where requests are to have a better sense of what areas are better served than others.

The city of San Francisco debuted a 311-Facebook app in February 2011.

New York City has its own NYC 311 mobile app.

Baltimore debuted their Mobile 311 app in August 2011.

Pittsburgh unveiled its iBurgh App in mid 2009.


Sociologist Zeynep Tufekci takes on the increasing tendency of tech companies to require ‘real names’ of users, in order for them to use the service.  Google + does it, Facebook does it — if they determine a user is using a pseudonym, they’ll suspend or expel the user.

What ramifications does this have for users in a repressive situation?  Does it make it less likely for dissent to occur on the social networks — harder for opposition activists to organize on them — more likely they could face arrest or abuse?

According to Tufekci’s past research, the answer to these questions would seem to be a yes…

"As the Internet became more and more accessible, as more and more ordinary people joined, as increasing bandwidth facilitated sharing of photos and videos, and as it all became mundane and domesticated, Internet has increasingly emerged as an identity constraining medium as it allows for surveillance and triangulation of information about a person like never before."

But in fact, she has a different take on the ‘real names’ vs. pseudonym-friendly debate, when it comes to its effect in repressive regimes.

She proposes that “the norm towards real(ish) names on Facebook has been a very fertile ground for dissent under autocracies. The close integration between online and offline persona which exists on Facebook is exactly the quality which makes Facebook very useful for reshaping the public sphere under undemocratic (and democratic) conditions; and the push towards real(ish) names helps further that integration.

Yes, Facebook may have removed some Egyptian activists for using pseudonyms when creating pages to honor victims of the Egyptian police - -and then only reinstating the page when one woman let her real identity be tied to the page. (as detailed by the Daily Beast here)

Tufekci argues that activists using tech will never be absolutely securely, so it may be better to just have them use their real names (in most cases) and hope that it ensures there are enough ‘real people’ tied to a cause online that individuals will be safe in the group.

"I certainly believe that there should be spaces, like Twitter and pseudonymous blogs which allow those in danger to express themselves while trying to minimize the repercussions. That said, there is no real safety in technology for activists and, ironically, there is more safety in numbers which the real name policy might actually help. Which means that we are increasingly headed for a future in which we try to both balance and protect pseudonymous spaces for activists, and risk the thread of hoaxes, traps and fiction, as well as identifiable spaces like Facebook, where people might put themselves in grave danger and within easy reach of the state."

The more people are compelled to tie their ‘real’ offline presence to their online presence, the more good for the whole that may result (in Tufekci’s words, a reverse tragedy of the commons).  Another benefit — more ‘real names’ may lead to less hoaxes, ala Amina Araf, the faked Syrian blogger who was outed as an invention of an American grad student, and then undercut some of the momentum of the Arab Spring.

So Tufekci’s overall message: some pseudonymous spaces online are necessary — but activists should beware the promise of pseudonymity as a false security — and if the numbers of people speaking out are going to be substantial enough, it may benefit all the individuals in the group to tie offline to online, and come out together in the hopes that the state can’t crack down on one if so many are speaking out.