Egyptian authorities will release Google executive Wael Ghonim from
government detention on Monday, according to family, friends, and
Egyptian news outlets, following over a week of speculation about
Anti-government protesters have adopted
Ghonim--Google's Dubai-based head of marketing for the Middle East and
North Africa--as a "symbolic leader" ever since his disappearance on
January 28, the Wall Street Journal reports, with the April 6 Youth Movement even naming Ghonim their
spokesman. While it's unclear whether Ghonim had a hand in
organizing the protest movement, the Journal explains, he helped
establish its foundation through online political activism in the
lead-up to the January 25 uprising, administering a Facebook page that
served as a "virtual headquarters" for the demonstrations and setting
up the official campaign website for opposition leader Mohamed
What does Ghonim's detention say about the company he works for and the nature of the Egyptian
protest movement as a whole?
- Will Google Stay True to Its 'Do No Evil' Mantra? wonders Rob Coppinger at The Inquirer. He notes that Google launched its "speak-to-tweet"
service after Ghonim's arrest, which enabled Egyptians to tweet via
voicemail when they lost web access, but adds that "it remains to be
seen if [Google] will try to do good even if that will likely ruin its
chances of doing business in other less than democratic states around
- Google's Doing a Better Job Than Facebook, argues
Gawker's Max Read. He notes that the Facebook page Ghonim reportedly
helped create was launched in memory of Khaled Said, the Egyptian
businessman who police beat to death in June 2010:
That group was taken down by Facebook--the first in a string of unbelievably unhelpful decisions by the social networking giant--and a second group, "We Are All Khaled Said," was created.
Though the administrators of the second group were anonymous, most people seem to assume that one was Ghonim ... Google won't comment on whether or not Ghonim violated company policies. But between its association with Ghonim and its sponsorship of ... speak2tweet, it's certainly showing Facebook how internet companies should be responding to democratic, popular uprisings--by not being evil.
- Ghonim's Detention Illustrates Digital Nature of Movement, contends
Ryan Sholin at Invisible Inkling: "To the Facebook pages serving as
vital organizing tools, to the missing Google executive, to the
[protesters] executing the time-honored urban hack of charging their
mobile devices using the wiring in a streetlight's base, to Andy
Carvin's retweet curation of reliable sources on the ground in and
around Tahrir Square ... No matter how it turns out, this period has
been a coming of age for a Web-native generation in Egypt."
- Ghonim Is Pivotal to Uprising, declares Egyptian businessman Naguib Sawiris, as quoted in The Wall Street Journal: "When he is released he will become the living hero of this revolution."
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