While some debated the role of social media in Egypt's revolution, Twitter's Hope140 Blog tracked down one particular Egyptian tweeter (@alya1989262) to discuss how tech-savvy activists in Africa and the Middle East are contributing to the movements for social change in those regions.
Who is the 21-year-old @alya1989262? According to Hope140, she was the first to use the "#Jan25" hashtag that protesters, journalists and the global Twitter community have used to coordinate, discuss issues and share or leak information about the uprising in Egypt.
In a post written for Hope140, @alya1989262 shared the following:
Twitter is a very important tool for protesters, as evidenced by the fact it and Facebook were repeatedly blocked in Egypt as the protests flared up. We use it to campaign and spread the word about protests/stands---hashtags are invaluable in that respect, and to share news quickly and efficiently, with our own 140-char commentary on them, and subsequently have conversations with random people/complete strangers. But most importantly, it allows us to share on the ground info like police brutality, things to watch out for, activists getting arrested, etc.
Facebook, she went on to say, was a valuable organizational tool for Egyptian demonstrators. But Twitter gave the protesters a glimpse at how fast and far their message was spreading. For example, hashtags like #Jan25, #Egypt and #Tahrir became global trends on Twitter during the protests. "Twitter trends also help us gauge how visible we are to the international community (my trends feed is set to Worldwide, and I know a lot of people have it set to various places in the US)," @alya1989262 wrote. "Making our voices heard, making sure people outside Egypt are aware of what's going on is very important to us, especially with the recent cell lines and internet blackout [...]"
Crediting Tunisia's uprising as an inspiration for Egypt's anti-government activists, she wrote: "[T]he Tunisian revolution was barely covered by traditional media until Ben Ali fled, but the #tunisia and #sidibouzid hashtags allowed us to follow the events for the whole month beforehand. I think that further convinced us of the power each of us has to effect change."