The leaders of Tunisia and Egypt have set up Facebook Pages to boost their images. Both pages have already garnered over 100,000 fans each. The extremely high traffic is unusual for governmental Facebook pages. It's a symbol of just how highly social networks are valued by the young demonstrators who launched the protests that achieved so much in recent weeks.
Tunisia's Interior Ministry, long feared as an instrument of repression, tried to stamp out social networking during the uprising last month. Now it's hoping Facebook will help it improve relations with Tunisian citizens. It's a huge change, as many Tunisians feared to let their opinions be known to the ministry just a few weeks ago.
"We want to create a new way to communicate with Tunisians, that provides total transparency and instant information," a spokesperson for the ministry said in a statement. "We're very interested in the opinion of people on Facebook and we're trying to listen to all Tunisians."
Egypt's Supreme Council of the armed forces (Facebook Page in Arabic) is currently running the country after protests got rid of the country's dictator. Human rights activists believe that the Egyptian military is still committing physical and sexual mistreatment on prisoners and detainees, while Egyptian activist groups say dozens of protesters are currently in custody. Even before demonstrators clashed with government officials, citizens made regular complaints against the police, including about being shaken down for bribes and being abused in detainment.
"This page will make it possible for people to make complaints or requests," the army said in a statement. It was set up "as part of our belief that fruitful cooperation with Egyptian youth in the coming period will surely lead to the security and stability for our beloved Egypt," according to the head of the military council, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi.
Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was in power from 1987 until January 14, 2011, when he was forced to step down and flee the country. Egyptian dictator Muhammad Hosni Sayyid Mubarak was in power from 1981 until February 11, 2011, when he resigned after 18 days of protests. Facebook has been credited for helping organize regime-ending protests in both countries. Twitter also helped, but both countries' governments have yet to create a Twitter account.