A May 4 Egyptian Facebook call to protest government policy inspired little activism. Leading social network site, Facebook, was believed to have a new role in Egypt as a platform for political activism, such as promoting demon

strations challenging the government. The latest strike, however, received limited support even with media coverage by various sources, including Egyptian opposition paper Al-Badil, and its announcement on Facebook.

The May 4 government protest coincided with President Hosni Mubarak's 80th birthday. Participants were asking legislators to raise wages, control soaring food prices and fight corruption.

However, in the capital Cairo commuters busied the streets and jammed the roadways in total disregard for the much hyped demonstration.

According to analysts, the failed strike is an indication of the narrow influence of activists organizing on social networking sites like Facebook regardless of their successful strike last month that suggested a new form of political protest was emerging in one of the Arab world’s largest nations.

Veteran political analyst Mohammed Sayyed Said views social networking sites as a means for political discussion rather than a way for the common people to band together in political dissention.

"The advantages were very clear," he said. "Several thousand people were debating an issue, which is extraordinary by any standards... but when it comes to touching cause with the public, it's a different story," said Mr. Said, who is also editor of the independent Badeel newspaper.

Indeed, the International Telecommunications Union reports that only 8% of Egyptians use the internet.

A Facebook group called 'A General Strike for the Egyptian People – April 6th,' successfully promoted a work strike that occurred just last month in Egypt. The strike was in response to a crisis over rising food prices that has gripped the nation recently.

The April 6 strike mostly took place in the Nile Delta city of Mahalla el-Kobra where protestors scuffled with police. Photographs from the day revealed police beating civilians, protesters tearing down a giant poster of Mubarak, and were circulated on Facebook.

By Kathleen Clark

Credit photo: AP Photo/Hossam Ali

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