Mubarak... You've Got Mail!
Tremendous "Stats and Feedback" about this unusual "In Box" we created for Hosni Mubarak, using Google Ads + Google Searches. Each time you look for "Hosni Mubarak" in Google... Bing! a message shows-up, you know... on the right, where Ads usually show up. Our Figures.
Period of our Campaigns: March 6th to March 28th 2007 - 22 days.
- Our messages have been "printed" in Google 148,000 times.
- That means that, in 22 days, 148,000 "Hosni Mubarak" related searches have occured.
- One must mention that the narrowness of the keywords we have "bought" guarantees
a high degree of attention to the messages that were showing up. A few examples: "Mubarak Constitutional Amendments", "Kefaya", "Mubarak Demonstration", etc
- One must also mention that these ads/messages had no competition whatsoever (no other Ads showing up).
- These Ads/message can be clicked on, but clicking isn't necessary. That's the nice thing about these campaigns: the medium is... the message.
- Nevertheless: over 3000 people have clicked our "Messages" and have watched our Awareness videos on Youtube (also part of that same effort and campaign)
These "Messages" are coming to us from all over the World. We centralize them and turn them into Ads in Google.
Each message starts like this "John to Mubarak", "Sally to Mubarak" etc.
Google lets you know what message is "more successful" than others, in terms of clicks:
- Female names, "Makssoofa, Rania, Dalia"..., seem to be getting more attention than Khaled, Ahmad, etc.
- The bolder the message, the bigger the clicks... Messages like "Hosni Mubarak, Why are you so mean?" are almost ignored. Messages like "Hosni Mubarak: you don't represent Egypt but disgusting human instincts". A propos... please read below.
Two notes about Language:
1- Language Control: We are very careful to keep our messages under control in terms of boldness. No obscene or vulgar language accepted. The hard talk is focused around words like: "corrupt, failure, theft, enough, decay, disgust ...". The harshest message says in arabic: "Hosni, May your parents have enough blood in their veins to make you stop... Enough!" (original text in Arabic: يا حسنى خللى عند اهلك دم وكفاية بقى). This expression doesn't have an exact equivalent in English but: "to have blood in your veins", in Arabic, means "to be human" or "to behave with humanity".
2- Multilinguism: These messages are coming to us in all sorts of languages, and we definitely encourage that.
An invitation to NP Readers
You can leave your message to Mubarak, right here, in a comment. We'd really appreciate that.
You can also try it out: go to Google, and search for "Hosni Mubarak". If the message is ina language you can't understand, just hit reload as many times as you like.
FULL BACKGROUND STORY
Every Thursday Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak gets mail. Lots of mail.
Mail from Egyptian bloggers who are risking their lives and their freedom to send him a message that freedom *is* coming to Egypt, whether he wants it or not. And mail from you, who support our commitment to freedom.
Every Thursday, thousands of people all over the globe will engage him in a conversation.
A conversation about democracy. About freedom. About his record of torture.
It's also a conversation with Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and also with Steve Chen, Chad Hurley and Jawed Karim (Youtube's founders). They have created wonderful technologies that help spread freedom - but without proper safeguards, allow repressive governments to identify "troublemakers" like myself. Like Abdel Kareem Soliman, a fellow blogger now serving a four-year prison sentence for "insulting" Hosni Mubarak. Which is why we must send him mail - frequently and in great numbers.
Here's how "Mubarak, You've Got Mail" works.
We have set-up for Mister M., a messaging "In Box". An "In Box" the *entire* planet can access and read. It's no email account. You're *all* invited to participate.
First: watch this YouTube video (it's bilingual) to get the secret password. Watch it all, and follow the instructions that are embedded in it.
This experimental campaign has been designed to shed light on President Mubarak's regime. It hopes to reach out to friendly voices and support.
In the "Description" Section of the video,
you'll find instructions on how to write
your message to President Mubarak .
How to share your message with us: Write it in a "comment", right here on NP. Of course, all messages will be subject to a selection. If your message is selected, I will notify you and tell you when you can see it appear in Google, in "President Mubarak's In Box".
This whole story started with this article on NP : "The Blogger and The President" (Egypt)
Many people take the freedom of blogging for granted, just as they take all forms of freedom of speech for granted. For those of us living under repressive regimes, such freedoms are like air to us - and we struggle to avoid being suffocated. This story is about our campaign for freedom.
Some of our community have been sent to jail - and so sometimes we must resort to activities which will raise awareness of our circumstances. One of these activities is the idea of creating a Google Adwords campaign, which is designed to throw a spotlight on to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. On March 6th and 7th 2007, someone activated an "Adwords Campaign" in Google, directly addressing President Hosni Mubarak. This Campaign was directing Google users to one of the satirical videos on my Youtube channel "The Kefaya Song 2.0" (Kefaya, in arabic, means "Enough"). This "Kefaya Song 2.0" happens not to be satirical. It is a peaceful march song, containing no foul language, but is rather "straight to the point".
We all remember how Google, through a different approach, was unwillingly directing its users to George W. Bush's official biography. Each time you would search for "miserable failure", George W. Bush's Biography would show up first. This was made possible through a "google bombing" operation. To learn more about this type of operation, please read the first two paragraphs of this BBC article. An Adwords campaign is something completely different but can be as effective --if you have the money to pay for it: Google has an advertising program that lets you purchase keywords for a given amount of time you set (according to your budget). Each keyword has a different value: "Breaking News" will probably cost you the price of your house. The name of the Egyptian President, "Hosni Mubarak", was cheap. But not for long.
This "someone" I mentioned earlier, and whose identity will be kept secret, acquired an important set of keywords, all linking to the video I mentioned above. Among those keywords were the names of Egyptian government owned newspapers and different combinations of the President's name: Hosni Mubarak, Hosny Mubarak, Hosni Moubarak etc. Each time you would type the name of the Egyptian President or the name of a main stream Egyptian Newspaper, the link to the satirical song would show up with this title: "Hosni Mubarak: The End". Ouch.
I searched for these words myself. I saw the adwords campaign show up. Another person I know saw it as well. Then, it dissapeared.
Here is why: people who buy adwords need to fix a figure that correponds to the highest price they're willing to pay for each click/print of their ad. For example: you decide to pay up to 1 dollar per click for the words "Tennis Racket". This means that your ad will appear on top of any other "Tennis Racket" advertiser bidding for only 50 or 75 cents.
This "someone" -- let's decide he's a male called "Darwish"-- explains that the Google interface alerted him that the price per click for the word "Hosni Mubarak" had gone up. And up. And up.
What should we make of that? Was someone else bidding against him? If yes? Who? Was he getting too many clicks? In less than 48 hours, he got almost 700 clicks. This means 700 people got the song's message... That would mean 10,500 per month, not taking into consideration a "buzz effect".
Darwish had to stop because this whole operation was becoming too expensive. He started a new campaign several days later with this message "Mubarak, chief of Thugs". This "ad" in both arabic and english was linking to my video and song: "To President Mubarak: Sankyoo" ("thank you").
Here is the highly sensitive part: to start a Google Campaign, you have to open an account, give your name, your bank account number, your address etc. In the USA, you could easily trigger the same campaign against your President and go back home to your wife and kids. In Egypt, it's another story: demonstrators, journalists and bloggers are imprisoned, like "Kareem" who was recently sentenced to 4 years, simply because he voiced his opinions on Islam and criticized the President. 3 years for insulting Islam, 1 year for insulting the President.
The Egyptian Police traced the Internet Cafe in which "Kareem Amer" was blogging and on a very early morning, at 3.30 AM, they knocked at his door and arrested him.
In Egypt, our Blogosphere is our atmosphere. This is where we find our oxygen. This is why it is time for us to address another critical issue: Private Information, Internet Control, and data we're sending out consciously (like "Darwish" with his Adwords campaign) or unconsciously.
Will the Egyptian Government attempt to get the Private information of "Darwish" or mine ? And how would they do that, since Google and Youtube are located outside of Egypt, in a free country?
Two things we need to mention to complete the picture:
1. Do you remember how Yahoo was accused of helping China in identifying of one of its dissidents? Read this to learn more about it (source: BBC).
2. The USA, under President George W. Bush, has invented the "Patriot Act". This Act gives the President/the US Government --if required for National Security-- access to any database located in the USA.
How does this affect the Egyptian Blogosphere ?
Google is a database. Youtube is a database. This "access" applies to the Private Information of *anyone* living inside ***and*** outside the USA (bank account data, emails, address...)
As long as this Private Information is archived in the USA, the US government can ask for it to be disclosed.
The concept of "National Security" is a very broad concept, especially when defined by George W. Bush who considers President Mubarak as his precious ally in the Middle East. I very easily imagine the both of them discussing how Egyptian Bloggers and demonstrators should be 'toned down', to ensure Egypt's stability and position in the Middle East-- because when the Middle East is unstable it threatens... US "National Security".
So will the US and Egyptian secret services work hand in hand to identify "Darwish" and Ahmad Sherif?
Am I being totally paranoid? Or am I giving myself a free ride, quoting my name amongst the names of the masters of the World?
This isn't about me. This is about every single freedom fighter in jail or still at home, waiting for his door to be forced. This is about George W. Bush having "Mubaraks" as allies. This is about the Patriot Act and how it highly endangers Internet Freedom all around the World. This is about the entire Egyptian Blogosphere.
This is why I realized that this whole episode would be a moment of truth for Google and Youtube and other internet related services such as ISPs (Internet Service Providers).
I decided to reach out to Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google's founders) and also to Steve Chen, Chad Hurley and Jawed Karim (Youtube's founders). Below is a link in which you can read my message to them and see 2 screenshots of the first "Google Adwords" campaign addressed to President Mubarak.
I must end this long story with the warmest thanks to NowPublic readers and editors, who helped me tremendously in getting this story as accurate as possible. Your instant support was miraculous. No it was not. It was human. This is what we do not have.
Related Media, links and feeds :
Video message to Larry Page, Sergey Brin (Google founders) and Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, Jawed Karim (Youtube founders) "FBI Abuses Patriot Act", an article posted on NowPublic, by Wisco.
A Google Adwords Campaign reaching out to Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google's Founders) was launched on March 14th. It was asking Larry and Sergey to view this "video letter". It was also requesting the help of any passer by who could get this message to them.
Ahmad Sherif / ahmadsherif