The new Egypt, where the PM resigns on Facebook

Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq's resignation was announced today not on state TV nor in a press release, but on Facebook – a key tool protesters used to overthrow Mubarak.

When Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq resigned Thursday, giving in to the demands of protesters, the news didn’t come in a press conference, or through state television, or even a normal press release.

It came via an announcement posted on the official Facebook page of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, the group of military officers ruling Egypt until new elections are held.

By now, using such means to announce a government’s resignation may not raise many Egyptian eyebrows. But its worth noting just how embedded the social network has quickly become in Egyptian politics and governance.

From the platform used to plan the protest that started it all, to the means of announcing one of the movement’s victories more than a month later, Facebook is now an integral part of Egypt’s political scene.

But that doesn’t mean the site deserves the credit for toppling Mubarak. Egypt’s revolution was a people’s revolution, not a Facebook revolution. It was won through the determination and resolve of the Egyptian people. Facebook was only a tool.

And during the most critical stage of the protests, when the Mubarak regime shut down the Internet throughout the country, they came out and fought for their freedom without it. Some of those protesting have never logged onto Facebook, much less owned a computer.

But some of the seeds that eventually blossomed on Feb. 11 were sown last year, in the death of Khalid Said, a young man who was brutally beaten to death on the street by police.

Several young Egyptians, one of them later revealed to be Google executive Wael Ghonim, created a Facebook page to raise awareness of Said’s death and the epidemic of torture and police abuse in Egypt. The page, called “We are All Khalid Said,” quickly attracted a huge membership, and it was used as a springboard to launch the call for a nation-wide protest Jan. 25.

After the fall of Mubarak, the military officers of the Supreme Council eventually realized that Facebook was a perfect way to reach many of the young activists of the revolution. They created an official Facebook page, and began releasing statements on it.

Feb. 26, the council released a statement on Facebook apologizing for using force in attempting to disperse demonstrators near Tahrir the night before. Some would say the council, giddy in its newfound social networking skills, has gone overboard. Thursday’s statement on Shafiq’s resignation was Facebook statement No. 26 from the supreme council.

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