Revolutionary activists take fight into cyberspace

Zeinab El Gundy, Thursday 12 Jan 2012

Battle is joined in ongoing e-war between Egypt's revolutionary activists and their ostensible adversaries

Anonymous' Operation Egypt slogan "Photo:Internet"

Outspoken writer and political activist Nawara Negm’s email, Facebook and Twitter accounts were reportedly hacked last week, when unknown perpetrators commandeered her two Twitter accounts – @NawaraNegm and Oshaokhtmeligi – on which they posted insulting tweets.

Negm is known for her vocal criticisms of public figures for their respective positions on Egypt’s revolution. Negm’s previous targets include former Egyptian vice-president Omar Soliman, Salafist sheikh Mohamed Hassan and the Salafist movement in general.  

Negm was ultimately able to restore her social media accounts and resume her criticisms of Hassan and Soliman. Negm’s twitter account – @Nawaranegm – boasts more than 150,000 followers in Egypt and the Arab world.

It was not the first time for a well-known activist’s social-network accounts to be hacked.

Several months ago, potential presidential candidate Ayman Nour’s Twitter account was hacked for two days in a row, during which hackers toyed with Nour’s Twitter followers. Would-be presidential contender Mohamed ElBaradei also reported last month that his Twitter account had been hacked for several hours during which tweets critical of Egypt’s ruling military council were removed by the hacker.

In August of last year, famous novelist Alaa El-Aswany reported that his email account had been hacked by what he described as “former regime remnants.” The hacker sent an angry message to the media via El-Aswany’s account attacking prominent television personality Yosri Fouda, accusing him of working for the ousted regime.

Hackers have also attacked anti-revolution icons, such as rapper-turned-activist and television host Ahmed El-Sayid El-Mandouh, popularly known as Ahmed “Spider.” El-Mandouh’s official website,, was hacked by a group of Egyptian hackers calling themselves the “Egyptian Knights” who reportedly threatened the activists with blackmail.

Controversial television host Tawfik Okasha, meanwhile, who often accuses revolutionary groups and figures of being “foreign agents,” also found his official Facebook page hacked last month by a group of pro-revolutionary hackers. The attack came after Okasha questioned the honour of a female activist who was filmed while being beaten and stripped by army personnel during last month’s Tahrir Square clashes.

And in early December, the website of Okasha’s El-Fareen television channel was temporarily brought down by hackers who left questions for Okasha about his past relationship with Mubarak’s now-defunct National Democratic Party.

Nor have political parties and movements been spared.

“Anonymous,” the well-known international “hacktivist” group, has also joined the virtual war between pro-revolution and counterrevolutionary forces. The group quickly declared its support of the Egyptian revolution after 25 January, launching “Operation Egyptian” in which it targeted Egyptian government websites.

Following Mubarak’s February ouster, the group maintained its support for the revolution, issuing stern online warnings to both the ruling military council and the Muslim Brotherhood.

In July, when the military council accused the April 6 youth movement of attempting to turn the public against Egypt’s armed forces and receiving funds from foreign powers, “Anonymous” cautioned the council against targeting the prominent youth group.

In early November, just weeks before Egypt’s first post-Mubarak parliamentary polls, “Anonymous” also posted a video message directed at the influential Muslim Brotherhood movement. "The Muslim Brotherhood has become a threat to the revolution that Egyptians fought for,” the group declared.

“Anonymous” accused the Brotherhood – which, along with its allies, has since swept Egypt’s parliamentary elections – of being “a power-hungry organisation bent on taking over sovereign Arab states in its quest to seize power from them.” The Hackivist group went on to announce the launch of “OpBrotherhood,” which threatened to target Brotherhood-affiliated websites.

On 11 November, several Brotherhood websites received thousands of hits per second from Germany, France, Slovakia and San Francisco, temporarily downing four of the Islamist group’s better known online forums, including its flagship “Ikhwan Online” website.

The official Facebook page of the ultraconservative Salafist Nour Party in Egypt’s Fayoum governorate, meanwhile, was also hacked in November by an unknown group that posted images of scantily dressed women on the site.

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