Leaders of Egypt, Tunisia set up Facebook pages


An Egyptian anti-government demonstrator sleeps on the pavement under spray paint that reads "Al-Jazeera" and "Facebook" at Cairo's Tahrir square on Feb. 7, 2011 on the 14th day of protests calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.


Khaled Desouki

The leaders of Egypt and Tunisia have set up Facebook pages, an apparent attempt to target the youth who effectively harnessed social media to organize regime-ending protests.

The Facebook page of Egypt's new military rulers, dedicated "to the sons and youth of Egypt who ignited the January 25 revolution and to its martyrs," according to AFP, reportedly already has more than 75,000 followers.

And Tunisia's Interior Ministry — which tried to stamp out social networking during the uprising last month against President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali — is hoping its new Facebook page will help it thaw relations with Tunisian citizens.

The ministry has long feared as an instrument of repression, but days after being set up, the new Facebook site has more than 110,000 subscribers. It contains thousands of posts, according to Reuters, ranging from requests for the dissolution of the political police to a suggestion not to let pushcart salesmen roam freely in the capital.

"We want to create a new way to communicate with Tunisians, that provides total transparency and instant information," a spokesman for the ministry told Reuters on Friday. "We're very interested in the opinion of people on Facebook and we're trying to listen to all Tunisians."

In Egypt, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, in setting up a page, followed the example of the Egyptian Interior Ministry, which first set up a Facebook page to counter public accusations of corruption and non-transparency and widespread anger over the way it treated protesters at the outbreak of the demonstrations last month.

Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites were reportedly blocked at the height of the uprising, largely orchestrated by the Egyptian youth, who used social media to organize demonstrations.

The page of Egypt's new military rulers has extremely high traffic, which is unusual for governmental Facebook pages and which Fast Company says is suggestive of how highly social networking sites are valued by the young Egyptians.

The wall consists of posts affirming the importance of #jan25 movement protesters and stating the Egyptian military's role in safeguarding reform.

The most recent post on the Facebook page received 4,500 comments within 24 hours. User comments show a wide range of responses that seem to indicate the uncertainty felt in post-revolution Egypt.