Egyptian police used the very instrument that sparked the recent anti-government rebellion, social media, to catch its youthful organizers, according to a published report.
Gabrielle, a 25-year-old French-Egyptian property lawyer, told The Daily Mail in a recent interview that activists in communication with each other via the Internet have been “rounded up.”
“They have our names from Facebook postings and Twitter,” she said. “Some have not been heard of since.”
Activists like Gabrielle — young, well-educated middle-class Egyptians — were torn between remaining or leaving Egypt during this time of national struggle. Their protests however, both at online and in daylight, opened themselves to increased vulnerability.
In recent days, loyalists to embattled President Hosni Mubarak failed to overtake the demonstrators in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. The Egyptian military has kept the desperate factions there at bay. Elsewhere, it’s another story.
“In the surrounding streets, and elsewhere in the capital, gangs of iron bar-wielding Mubarak loyalists lurk listlessly at roadblocks,” Ian Gallagher of The Mail wrote, adding, “Bloggers and opposition leaders have been dragged from their homes and beaten up. Journalists, too, have been targeted.”
Pro-Mubarak thugs reportedly torched the Cairo offices of Al-Jazeera, the Arabic media network which has streamed the mass protests on the Internet for free from the earliest moments of the conflict. The Egyptian government had attempted to shut down the network and the public’s access to the Internet to no avail.
The regime’s attempt to blackout social media networks caused an online group of hacktivists known as “Anonymous” to disrupt the Egyptian government with distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.
One Tunisian member of “Anonymous,” who called himself Anon.M, told Al Jazeera that he was tasked with breaking into Egyptian government websites.
“I take down security barriers of Web sites so that people can enter and occupy the site and post their message to the Egyptian government,” he said. “So they know this Web site is ours now, and they can’t block freedom of expression.”
Gallagher reported that Gabrielle decided to remain in Egypt amid the gunfire in downtown Cairo she deemed once “unthinkable.”
“Let’s hope Mubarak does the opposite,” she said.
With reporting by David Edwards.