Google Executive Helped Spark Egypt Protests

Google’s head of marketing for the Middle East helped run a Facebook page used by Egyptian protesters

A Google marketing executive has admitted to being the administrator of a Facebook page that helped trigger weeks of dramatic protests in Egypt.

Wael Ghonim, or Ghoneim, the head of marketing for Google in the Middle East and Africa, who has just been released after twelve days in custody, said in a television interview that he was the administrator of the Facebook page “We are all Khaled Said“, which became one of the main tools for organising the protests that began on 25 January. Khaled Said was a 28-year-old businessman who died in June at the hands of undercover police.

Missing for twelve days

Wael Ghonim Picture: Dream TV

Ghoneim himself went missing on 27 January, two days after the beginning of the protests, and said in the interview that he had been held blindfolded by police for 12 days. He said he had not been tortured and had been treated with respect by the security forces who questioned him.

Ghoneim said in the interview on private television station Dream TV he had not wanted to be known as the operator of the Khaled Said page. “I didn’t want anyone to know that I am the administrator,” he said. “There are no heroes; we are all heroes on the street.”

The Google executive, who is based in Dubai, said the protest movement had been initiated by Egyptians, not outsiders.

“This is the revolution of the youth of the Internet and now the revolution of all Egyptians,” he said.

Internet blocked

The Egyptian government’s blocking of Internet services for five days is likely to have cost the country roughly $90 million (£56m), according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The blocked telecommunication and Internet services account for between three and four percent of the country’s GDP, equivalent to a loss of $18 million (£11m) per day. However, the OECD warns that the long-term impact could be far greater, as the cut-off could have deterred foreign investors from expanding their operations in Egypt.

Ghoneim’s support was an out-of-hours activity, but Google itself helped the protesters by providing a service that would tweet messages sent by phone, after Egypt banned Twitter. Other social media giants also weighed in, with Facebook upgrading its security after it became known that in Tunisia the government had tried to steal the passwords of all Facebook users.