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Internet networking facilitates discreet connections, both romantic and political.
He adds that the success of Facebook in countries like Morocco with limited freedoms is due to the fact that anyone who wants to have a community of followers can create a page and write anything they want.
This social network has indeed also impacted Moroccan politics. It only takes a few minutes to start a page, invite subscribers, and start sharing ideas and debating them with other users.
“It has enabled us to reach out to people and express ourselves in a way that is impossible in a country like Morocco,” explains the political activist, Ibtissame Lachgar, who recently wrote to the 2,400 members of the group MALI (Alternative Movement for Individual Liberty), calling for action in the name of religious freedom.
“We inform our members that during the month of Ramadan, a time that is restrictive in regards to the freedoms of those who practice other religions or no religion at all, a symbolic action will be launched,” she wrote. “Many organizations are joining our fight.”
The MALI group has been fighting for individual freedoms for almost a year. In 2009, during the month of Ramadan, Lachgar and a group of people attempted to have a picnic during the day to protest a national law that forbids breaking the fast in public places. They were arrested, intimidated by the authorities and the public, which then led to a media frenzy that was picked up by the internet. They used their fame to reach out to others and continue the debate over religious freedom.
The enigmatic and famous political blogger, Ibn Kafka, whose real identity remains unknown, believes that Facebook is a great tool but that one that also makes people vulnerable to government scrutiny and easily spotted.
“Activists should use other platforms, more anonymous ones, like Twitter to reach out to even more people,” he said. However, he concedes that it allows people who think alike to find each other and unite.
Koch warns that when a social network allows people to freely express themselves it also allows the government to profile the population.
“The government can easily identify people and strike back in other ways,” he said.
Facebook was pressured by several governments to require in their terms of service that people open accounts under their real names. The Moroccan activist Kacem El Ghazzalli, who started the group, “Youth for the Separation between Religion and Education,” says that he was subjected to the Facebook terms of service and that his account and his group were removed. He contacted the company to find out why but never received an explanation.
But Aziz does not really get involved in politics. For him, and many other Moroccans, Facebook remains a place to interact with people from everywhere.
“I never had a boyfriend before,” he said. “I am so happy now.”