Tunisia – Egypt: Transferring revolutionary experience online

Being largely unnoticed, mid-December 2010 was the beginning of a sequence of highly contentious events which eventually changed the geopolitics of the whole Middle East. On December 17, the individual protest action in the provincial Tunisian city of Sidi Bouzid sparked a surge of protest activities which, within four weeks, ousted the long-ingrained regime of President Ben Ali and started a wave of revolutions across the whole Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region known as the “Arab Spring.” All these revolutions, despite their appearing differences, share a number of important features which allow researchers to classify them similarly. Particularly, in all these attempted revolutions, modern Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) played important roles. Based on the roles of ICTs in many of these revolutionary cases, researchers can distinguish their significant parts which can be described as civil cyberwars – i.e. cyberwars between the regime and the opposition of the same country (as opposed to the between-states cyberwars like the cases of the cyberwars in the former USSR countries – against Estonia in spring 2007 and against Georgia in summer

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2008). In our research of the Egyptian April 6 Youth Movement, we have already established that one thing that was crucial in the success of the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt was the protesters’ preparedness to effectively wage offline, street battles against the regimes’ efforts to curtail the demonstrations. Social media played a crucial role of instant knowledge-transfer channels. For example, Tunisian youth readily shared on Facebook their suggestions on how to protect themselves during the street clashes with the police – based on their own recent successful experiences. After remaining on Tahrir Square, protesters were violently dispersed by the Mubarak’s security forces on the Egyptian Police Day (January 25), they expected the same during the January 28massive protest rally. On its eve, the Egyptian dissenters spread a comprehensive, practical manual on how to effectively withstand the heavy-equipped riot police through every possible online channel. Among others, it contained the suggestions from the Tunisian youth. Soon after this, as part of its cyberwar against its own people, Mubarak’s regime completely blacked-out the Internet in Egypt. But by then, it was too late – the manual already reached its target audience. The manual’s guidelines likely played a large role in the protesters’ eventual victory in the multi-hour battle over the Qasr El Nile bridge – a key point on their way to Tahrir Square.