Youtubers & Influencers : Sisi’s Latest Propaganda Tool

Abdallah Bakr

Even if their performance is not much different from TV veterans’ like Ahmed Moussa and Nashaat Al Deihy, these influencers have a greater ability to influence and manipulate opinions, attempting to divert the public’s attention from the harsh reality that Egypt is experiencing.

Following the defeat of the 2011 revolutions, the Egyptian authorities and security agencies turned their attention towards the online world. They began to invest in what is known as ‘electronic brigades’ and fake accounts that echo the authorities’ narrative. This even extended to recruiting YouTubers and influencers to promote the government’s narrative and its accusations against its enemies, and to eventually justify the shutdown of certain social media pages.

There is an unproven accusation from a large number of followers that security agencies are investing in YouTubers and social media influencers. The only evidence for this is the repetitive speeches they deliver, adopting the justifications and narratives of the authorities.

The previous accusations become clear when monitoring the content online and comparing it with the official narrative. One influencer accused of such behaviors is Loay Al Khatib, one of the most famous online influencers. In his content, he repeatedly echoes security narratives and boldly addresses concerning and hot topics, shifting his activities to social media after the failure of his TV program “Lamba,” (“Lamp”) following low viewership.

Even if their performance is not much different from TV veterans like Ahmed Moussa and Nashaat Al Deihy, these influencers have a greater ability to influence and manipulate opinions, attempting to divert the public’s attention from the harsh reality that Egypt is experiencing. Recently, this movement affected Matsaddaqsh, an online media platform dedicated to battling false narratives, who had released information concerning Egyptian detainees in a Zambian aircraft. 

Matsaddaqsh was accused of spreading false information, and mainstream media attacked the platform before, during, after the arrest of journalist Karim Asaad, who works for the page. He was taken to an unknown location and later released after being threatened. Ironically, the most prominent influencers, the governments’ ‘parrots,’ shared the same faulty narrative as the authorities concerning Matsaddaqsh.. 

Sharif Al Sayrafi… From Anarchy to Sisi-ism

As soon as viewers open Al Sayrafi’s videos on Youtube, they are met with the renown statement: “Hello, I’m Sharif Al Sayrafi,” accompanied by a salute to the Egyptian flag. His Youtube channel is followed by over a million subscribers and he has more than double that number of followers on Facebook.

Al Sayrafi concludes each episode with an enthusiastic song borrowed from the TV series “Al Ekhteyar,” which belongs to the drama show celebrating the achievements of President Sisi. What’s noteworthy here is that Al Sayrafi’s fervent support for the President contradicts his revolutionary and anarchist beginnings.

Al Sayrafi was part of the April 6 Movement, which was a key player in the anti-Mubarak protests before the January revolution. However, after the revolution, he split from the movement and founded the Black Bloc movement, which was known for its violent tactics during the revolution. Al Sayrafi explained that the founding of the Black Bloc “came after the events of the Ittihadiya Palace, where young members of the Muslim Brotherhood used violence against the protesters when it became clear that the Ministry of Interior would not intervene to protect or secure the demonstrators against the rule of former President Mohamed Morsi.”

The Black Bloc became associated with attacks on Muslim Brotherhood offices, and the group didn’t limit its confrontations to the Brotherhood alone. They clashed with the police in numerous incidents, as indicated in their initial statement warning the police not to interfere with their planned violent confrontations.

In their first statement, the movement warned the Ministry of Interior against involving themselves in the Black Bloc’s actions. “We strongly warn against the Interior Ministry’s involvement in this matter, and if we face them, we will not hesitate to respond,” read the statement.

In May 2013, they marched to Tahrir Square wearing masks and pelted security forces with Molotov cocktails on Youssef Al Gendy Street. They disrupted traffic on October Bridge and even pursued the Egyptian Museum security forces.

Despite the declared ‘revolutionary’ violence in the movement’s activities, it was overlooked because it was directed against the Muslim Brotherhood. Al Sayrafi remained a fugitive, with the police raiding his house repeatedly. He only reappeared on June 30, strongly supporting the protests and the army, represented by then-Defense Minister Abdel Fattah  Al Sisi. However, after the protests ended with Morsi’s ousting, Al Sayrafi was arrested in 2014 on charges related to destroying the martyrs’ memorial and was sentenced to one year in prison.

Alaa Abd Al Fattah strongly defended Al Sayrafi, perhaps being the only one to do so amid the many voices who vilified him, just as they did to Abd Al Fattah. Ironically though, Al Sayrafi dedicated a significant number of videos on his YouTube channel to defaming Abd Al Fattah, openly accusing him of espionage for British intelligence. This animosity was far from fair. Even the April 6 Movement, which marked Sharif’s initial foray into politics, saw a clear shift from opposing security forces to working under their directives.

Sharif Al Sayrafi is credited with being the least naive in the way he presents the disinformation among traditional media personalities or YouTubers. He skillfully blends accurate information, containing only a small part of the truth, with misleading information. He also occasionally criticizes the government on issues such as rising prices and the currency devaluation, which gives him greater credibility.

His latest videos, as of the time of writing, attempt to promote the Egyptian government’s narrative regarding the arrest of Egyptians on a Zambian plane, accused of smuggling gold. Matsaddaqsh revealed the names of the detainees and their ties to sensitive security agencies.

“Awareness with Noor” in the Era of Sisi

The “journalist” Mohamed Noor hosts the program “Wa’i Noor” (“Awareness with Noor”) with a performance that befits an informant. Thirty-one-year-old Noor holds a degree in Business Administration from Cairo University’s Faculty of Commerce. He has also completed courses in strategy, national security, crisis management, and negotiation from the Nasser Military Academy, an institution affiliated with the armed forces. The academy provides courses for civilians alongside officers, aiming to prepare civilians who have completed its courses for “occupying high-ranking state positions” and participating in developing the comprehensive strategy and public policies of the state, as well as understanding all the factors affecting it.

According to one of Noor’s statements, his program “Awareness with Noor” is presented on social media platforms as a national awareness initiative aimed at spreading awareness among the Egyptian and Arab societies. He believes that awareness is the weapon of the people. The program is divided into two parts: the first part focuses on political and strategic analysis, presenting current events and contemporary issues analyzed from the perspective of Egyptian national security and its requirements. This aims to provide everyone with the Egyptian national perspective before being influenced by hostile media.

The second part of his program is dedicated to showcasing the Egyptian General Intelligence and its achievements, as well as the operations of the armed forces, its heroes, and symbols. The goal of this part of the program is to nurture nationalistic feelings, boost morale among viewers, instill hope, and provide them with role models in patriotism and self-sacrifice for Egypt.

“Awareness with Noor” has 180,000 subscribers on YouTube and nearly one million followers on Facebook. His latest video, as of the time of writing, is titled “Important with Evidence… Ahmed Tantawi is an Agent and the International Organizations Announce Support for Him.” However, the video does not provide any evidence, except that some elements abroad who are sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood have declared their support for the candidate, along with rumors and unfounded connections.

Noor uses language that is closer to slang and falls below the minimum standards of professionalism. His program often includes words like defamation and treachery, while also making sweeping corruption allegations and government-aligned threats. The thumbnail he chose for the video on Ahmad Tantawi is a split image, with the first half featuring Tantawi’s photo, while the second image is from the film “The Danish Experiment” portraying a somewhat effeminate and weak character. This appears to be a belittling gesture.

His videos are dominated by crude language, making reckless accusations and descending into attacking the opposition. This is the predominant style in most of his videos, with words like defamation and collaboration sprinkled across his monologues. Meanwhile, Abdel Fattah Al Sisi always appears in his videos as an exceptionally intelligent figure who manipulates international powers.

Images of President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi are always present in the background of his studio, and he claims that British intelligence, Mossad, Turkish intelligence, and Qatari intelligence are trying to assassinate the President using terrorist groups and organizations. Ironically, when The Economist, a British newspaper, reported on an assassination attempt on Sisi, Noor immediately cast doubt on these reports, accusing the newspaper of being the economic arm of British intelligence and behind the spread of these rumors.

After Matsaddaqsh had published about the accused Egyptians on the Zambian plane, a similar misinformation technique was used against its founder, Muhammad Abu Al Ghayt, or anyone who contributed to training the employees of the platform. Abu Al Ghayt was accused of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood by Noor, who cited an old article published by Abu Al Ghayt on a Brotherhood-affiliated website called Ikhwan Wiki. Noor stated, “As is well known, this website was exclusively for those who were organizationally affiliated with the group, and no one from outside the Muslim Brotherhood was allowed to publish on this site.”

The article he is referring to, “Morsi Did Not Call the Thurya Phone,” was first published on the Al Shorouk in 2014. Meanwhile, Ikhwan Wiki published it in 2015, and it was not written by Abu al-Ghayt, as Noor falsely claimed. The article itself on the Ikhwan Wiki website contains the note (source: Al Shorouk). And besides, Ikhwan Wiki is similar to Wikipedia in that it compiles everything written about the Muslim Brotherhood without referencing the authors.

Mohamed Noor attempted to cast doubt on the affiliation of the Facebook pages Matsaddaqsh and Sahih Masr with the Muslim Brotherhood based on a report stolen from an Egyptian platform. In the report, he traces Mazid and asserts that it is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. Mohamed Noor plagiarized this report and confused it with both Matsaddaqsh and Sahih Masr.

“Qowat Masr” – military nostalgia

Ahmed Mubarak hosts the program “Qowat Masr,” which aesthetically appears to be from the 1980s when Egyptian television had only two channels. Ahmed Mubarak appears in a classic vintage suit, a clean-shaven face, and a disciplined posture reminiscent of a military parade, which may convey confidence to some but may also make it seem like you are watching a paid tourism presentation. In it, Egypt is presented as flawless and perfect, just like the presenter’s appearance, as if it has no faults whatsoever. Mohamed Nour, on the other hand, presents himself as a soldier in the battle of awareness.

According to his statements to I’alam.Org, Ahmed Mubarak, a graduate of the Faculty of Mass Communication in 2010, started his media career when he was in his second year as a journalist and news anchor, in addition to producing and writing several documentaries and books.

He started his program in 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and has produced more than 500 episodes with more than 500 million views, as well as having over one million followers on Facebook, and 250,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel.

During his appearance on “Al Hayat Al Youm” with presenter Mustafa Shardi, Ahmed Mubarak stated that “Egypt has recently been subjected to systematic smear campaigns. There is no country that disagrees with us that has the ability to engage in a direct war with Egypt, so they resort to aggressive media attacks. There is a target campaign by Western media that is directed against our country. Therefore, I thought about creating a channel to counter the lies.”

His latest battle involved accusing Matsaddaqsh of being affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, repeating verbatim what the influencer Loay El Khateeb had published, saying, Matsaddaqsh should be called Matsaddaqsh Ghayr Al Ikhwan (Do Not Believe but the Muslim Brotherhood).” He accused the page of altering the Zambian authorities’ statement regarding the plane that Egyptian nationals were accused in, changing the aircraft’s name, number, and type, as well as the flight details to disrupt actual news while claiming that it practices investigative journalism. However, it is notable that this is the same text that Loay Al Khatib had repeated.

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