Google manager helped spark Egypt revolt

Wael Ghonim was behind the Facebook page that helped spark what he called "the revolution of the youth of the Internet."

February 8, 2011 12:50:33 PM PST
The young Google executive released after he was detained for protesting against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak says he was behind the Facebook page that helped spark what he called "the revolution of the youth of the Internet" two weeks ago.

Within a few hours of being released by the Egyptian authorities, Ghonim was back on the streets protesting and he spoke briefly with Egyptian TV.

"I am not a hero, I slept for 12 days. The heroes were in the street. The heroes are the ones that went to the demonstrations. The heroes are the ones that sacrificed their lives. The heroes are the ones that were beaten. The heroes are the ones that were arrested and were exposed to dangers. I was not a hero," he said.

He announced his release with a tweet saying, "Freedom is a bless that deserves fighting for It." Ghonim now has nearly 12,000 followers on Twitter and he says he is one of the key figures behind a Facebook page that helped spark a social media revolution.

"Getting him released is exciting and all, but the fact that he went back to the square says he is not in it for the fame. He is in it to get his message across," said Ghonim's cousin Hoda Magid, a student at Santa Clara University.

The 30-year-old executive, father of two, is based in Dubai working for Google as a marketing executive. He had been running social networking sites criticizing the Egyptian president, and it was believed YouTube showed him being taken into custody by police during a demonstration in Cairo on Jan. 28. But he now says it happened much more privately, in an alley where four men suddenly surrounded him. For days his whereabouts were unknown.

Members of an Egyptian opposition group met with Vice President Omar Suleiman to ask for his release. On Monday morning, a Google spokesperson issued a statement saying, "It is a huge relief that Wael Ghonim has been released. We send our best wishes to him and his family."

"I don't think there is any question that Twitter and Facebook were huge in this whole last couple of weeks' series of events," Ghonim's former colleague Greg Coladonato said.

"There is a mix feeling that these protests, although it might impact the departure of Mubarak, but it is also hurting the country, the longer it takes to have a stable solution for Egypt," Ghonim's cousin Ayman Aniss said.

Google has been in contact with Ghonim's wife and Ghonim wrote on Twitter that he went to Cairo against his family's wishes. One trait he lists on his Twitter profile is that he loves challenging the status quo.