JERUSALEM – A group that is one of the main youth movements helping to organize the anti-government protests planned for Egypt this weekend participated in a 2008 U.S. State Department-sponsored training summit on how to use social media to organize societal change, WND has learned.
The keynote speakers at the summit were three architects of the online component of President Obama’s 2008 campaign. The Obama campaign’s use of social media for grassroots community organizing in 2008 was considered a watershed development in political fundraising and movement building.
The protests are slated to take place this Sunday under a campaign called Tamarod, which formed the United 30 June Front, a body that includes a number of youth movements and political parties.
The Tamarod group is calling for the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood from power and a transition period in which the chairman of the Supreme Constitutional Court would serve as acting president until new elections are held.
Mohamed Abdel Aziz, a founder of the Tamarod campaign, said: “Our vision is not a new revolution; our vision encompasses a bigger wave of the January Revolution.”
Tamarod leaders are calling for Egyptian citizens to take to the streets Sunday to demand Morsi’s departure.
Fears of a showdown in the streets have already prompted the Egyptian army and police to begin a deployment.
The protest plan comes after Morsi’s refusal to allow the country’s largely secular opposition to have more influence in the political process. The Brotherhood leader also has been hesitant to press ahead with economic reforms.
Speaking from Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry said the protests are “spontaneous” and come “from the Egyptian people.”
“We hope that it will bring the government ultimately to a place where the reforms are affected and choices that need to be made about the economy are implemented,” stated Kerry.
“We will obviously hope that it will not produce violence and be a moment of catalyzing positive change for Egypt itself.”
Egypt’s Daily News reported the protest leaders met last week with members of the April 6 Youth Movement, including its founder Ahmed Maher, to discuss the creation of a united front to manage the protests.
Maher has been widely quoted in the Egyptian and international media as a critic of Morsi. His April 6 Youth Movement played a leading role in organizing protests that led to the ouster of U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak, the former Egyptian president.
A PBS “Frontline” profile of the April 6 Movement reported one member visited the U.S. to participate in the State Department-organized “Alliance of Youth Movements Summit” in New York City.
Also, a Wikileaks cable claimed the activist said he discussed with other activists there techniques to evade government surveillance and harassment.
The “Frontline” report said the April 6 Movement member “reported to his State Department contact that the April 6 group ‘would like to call for another strike on April 6, 2009, but realizes this would be impossible’ due to SSIS [state security] interference,’ and said that the government had driven the group’s leadership, including Maher, underground.”
The Alliance of Youth Movement’s annual summit took place in New York December 3-6, 2008.
The summit was sponsored by the State Department in conjunction with Facebook, YouTube, Hi5, Google, MySpace, Gen Next, Howcast Media, MTV, PepsiCo, Mobile Behavior, Univisión, Interactive Media Inc., WordPress.com and others.
The keynote speakers were three directors of Obama’s online campaign in 2008: Joe Rospars, the campaign’s director for new media; Scott Goodstein, external online director of Obama for America; and Sam Graham-Felson, director of blogging and blog outreach for the campaign.
Seminars were given on the use of social media to push for change and to launch a global network to empower young people mobilizing against violence and oppression.
The 2008 summit led to the creation of Movements.org, a nonprofit organization dedicated to identifying, connecting and supporting digital activists.
Founders of Movements.org include Google director Jared Cohen, a former adviser to both Clinton and Condoleezza Rice; and Jason Liebman, CEO and co-founder of Howcast, the How-to website.
Movements.org is intended to serve as a hub for discussion, resources and news about digital activism around the world.
With additional research by Brenda J. Elliott