Egypt Lies I Read on Twitter: Debunking Rumors and Misinformation on the #Jan25 Uprising

Photo by Arabist, via TwitPic

In Egypt, six days of massive demonstrations against the government look set to continue.

Two days ago, the country's president of 30 years sacked his government. Yesterday, he named a new one – and for the first time during his reign, picked a vice president. Today, protesters continue to rally, calling for Hosni Mubarak to step down.

Like during Tunisia's "Jasmine Revolution" just a few weeks earlier, there's been an outpouring of support and interest on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere. But, inevitably, with all the cheerleaders and nay-saying being bandied about, so too is a slew of … less than reliable tweets.

For example:

Hearing UNCONFIRMED info that the Egyptian Army getting ready to announce President Hosni Mubarak is stepping down. #Egypt #Jan25

OR the more nuanced version:

Ben Wedeman @bencnn reported on air just now #Mubarak is preparing to step down, quoting sources inside regime #Egypt #Jan25

Well, needless to say, we're still waiting for that to happen… but here's what the New York Times Lede blog published Wedeman actually saying:

A source familiar with the thinking of Egypt's ruling party told him that the decision to appoint Omar Suleiman, the intelligence chief, vice president on Saturday "may well be as a preparatory step for a transition of power, for the resignation of President Mubarak, and to ensure that there is somebody in control, that there is a system of transition of power from Mubarak to his vice president in the event, and this is very possible, that the president does in one form or another step down from power."

Evidently very different than what got passed around.

Here's another misrepresentation: A photo of an Arabic document (which has since been taken offline) has been widely retweeted today with the following caption:

New photo: Document details how plain-clothed police should loot as "ordinary citizens" in Egypt

I'll be honest, my Arabic isn't perfect. But from what friends tell me, it makes no direct reference to looting. It does however, encourage security forces to go about in civilian attire and harass protesters.

All the same, the nuances matter.

Similar to what happened amidst a sea of Twitter activism during the Iran Election in 2009, there's been a number of Twitter users setting their location to Egypt – when they're clearly not there – as a sign of solidarity. In effect though, that makes it rather difficult for casual readers to make sense of what information is actually coming from people on the ground.

And then of course, there's this hit piece, with hundreds of retweets:


This is #Epic, Fox News has no idea where Egypt is on a map: #jan25 #egypt #US

Just one problem: this image was circulated two years ago, and who knows if it was real or Photoshopped in the first place.

Have you seen other lies, untruths, misconceptions? Please share in the comments.