Google Engineer Missing in Egypt

Wael Ghonim is Google’s man in the Middle East and North Africa. As the head of Google’s marketing for these areas, Mr. Ghonim, who lists Dubai and Cairo as his locations, was part of a team of Google engineers who worked to build a service for Egyptians without internet service that would allow them to tweet by leaving a phone voicemail. After keeping Google and the world apprised of his whereabouts via Twitter, Ghonim has been silent since January 27. Google has issued a statement saying he is missing in Egypt and urging anyone with information to call +44 20 7031 3008 or e-mail infoaboutwael@google.com.

Ghonim worked to provide the people of Egypt with a voice – and that voice is Twitter. After Malcolm Gladwell wrote in the New Yorker that revolution can’t be tweeted, Google’s engineer responded, “Hey @Gladwell, #Jan25 proved you wrong. Revolution can be a #Facebook event that is liked, shared & tweeted.” January 25 refers to the day protests started, and which has been called the “Day of Anger.”

Google and Mr. Ghonim’s family and friends have traced his movements via Twitter:

January 24: “Despite all the warnings I got from my relative and friends, I’ll be there on #Jan25 protests.”

January 25: “We got brutally beaten up by police people.”

And: “Sleeping on the streets of Cairo, trying to feel the pain of millions of my fellow Egyptians.”

January 27: “Pray for #Egypt. Very worried as it seems that government is planning a war crime tomorrow against people. We are all ready to die.”

January 27: a reader asked how his tweets were making it when there was no Internet service in Egypt. Ghonim replied, “proxy servers,” and that was his final tweet.

It can’t be doubted that social media has played a central role in the events in Egypt, and certainly for Wael Ghonim who was trying to bring that access to the Middle East and North Africa.

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