How Wired Are Egyptians?

BY Evan Conway  January 31, 2011 at 6:23 PM EST

With social media helping organize the throngs of protesters taking to the streets of Egypt, we spoke with Mohammed el-Naway of North Carolina’s Queens University of Charlotte, author of “Islam Dot Com,” for some insight on social media and Internet use in Egypt:

  • About 19 percent of Egypt’s 80 million people have Internet access | Roughly 15 million Egyptians are Internet users — more than any other Arab country, el-Nawawy said.

  • Many bloggers, but few protections | There are more than 160,000 Egyptian blogs, according to a recent study, but the Committee to Protect Journalists names the nation one of the worst places to be a blogger.

  • Social networking can be a double-edged sword | “There was an Internet police set up by the government in Egypt,” el-Nawawy said. “They had their own people launch blogs that would respond to the blogs of the opposition. They also had insiders infiltrate chat rooms and try to lead discussion in different directions and cause havoc.”

  • Social networking shows class divides | “One thing to note is that the use of social media is limited to a certain class of people, those who are able to afford access to the Internet,” el-Nawawy said.

As the protests continue to grow, so too does the power — or perceived power — of social media and digital communication. As el-Nawawy put it, “people doubted the ability of social media to start something like this. The fact that the Internet was shut down shows how scared the regime is of social networking now.”

There’s more on the social media factor on Monday’s NewsHour.