Cablegate: Lebanon: Facebook - Youth Go Online to Oppose
RR RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHLB #0693 1361219
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 151219Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1888
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS BEIRUT 000693
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINR OEXC SCUL AINT KPAO LE
SUBJECT: LEBANON: FACEBOOK - YOUTH GO ONLINE TO OPPOSE
REF: BEIRUT 347
1. Summary: Facebook, a social networking site, is one online
medium Lebanese youth have used to react to the political
instability and violence plaguing the country since May 7.
Many have made their opinions public by posting comments on
their profiles, changing their profile pictures to patriotic
symbols or joining a burgeoning number of Facebook groups
dedicated to Lebanese causes. While some Facebook members
defend the opposition's campaign to bring down the
government, the majority oppose ongoing "civil disobedience"
and call for a peaceful, united Lebanon. End summary.
2. Young Lebanese have gone online to voice their opinions
about their country's ongoing political strife. With more
than 309,000 members in Lebanon, 50% of whom are 22 years or
younger, Facebook has a membership cutting across the wide
religious, geographic and political spectrum of this tiny,
fractured country. Lebanon's youth have aired their
frustrations in their profiles by posting comments like, "I
am sick of this pathetic excuse for a country" and "They
should all burn in hell like they are burning our lovely
country." Weaving in sarcasm, one "wonders if wars should be
factored into Lebanese calendars." One Public Diplomacy (PD)
program alumnus emphatically states, "(expletive) every
single (expletive) person who is (expletive) following those
(expletive) politicians in this (expletive) country! Excuse
me for the word country." Of course, not all voices are in
unison. One Christian advises the Hizballah leader, "Don't
believe them, Mr. Hassan; they are liars! Keep the airport
closed until Israel, the USA, Japan and why not Canada leave
(Lebanon)." One request, though, sums up the Facebook
majority sentiment: "We've had enough...khalass (enough)."
3. Another way for several people to express solidarity with
their homeland is through their profile pictures. Members'
faces disappeared, replaced with patriotic symbols such as
the Lebanese flag or the revered cedar tree.
4. The Embassy's profile (reftel) received invitations to
join several groups (some in Arabic, most in English)
dedicated to Lebanese causes. While the vast majority protest
violence and support a unified Lebanon, a few back the
opposition, including Hizballah. Admittedly, tracking down
the sparse number of pro-opposition groups, such as "Amal and
Hizballah together always" and "Why are you crying (Prime
Minister) 'FooFoo' Siniora? Because I want Condeleeza,"
required some searching. While these groups have small
memberships, as little as 14, the largest, "Orange Lebanon"
in support of opposition MP Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic
Movement, registers 11,300.
5. The overwhelming majority of groups dedicated to the
current conflict protest violence. Names like "No civil war"
and "Stop war in Beirut" are attracting thousands of members.
"Stop war," for example, has 42,000 people registered.
Another set of groups rally support for Future TV whose
studios were ransacked and burned by opposition forces on May
10, forcing them off the air. (Note: Future resumed
broadcasting on May 13 from temporary studios in Sin El Fil,
in Christian East Beirut. End note.) One group even supports
the beleaguered airport, without commercial air service after
the opposition blocked access roads to the facility. "Rafiq
Hariri Airport is a beacon for Lebanon and will not become
Hassan Nasrallah Airport" reads one group with more than
6. Comment: Facebook is the top visited website in Lebanon,
ahead of Internet giants Google and Yahoo. Aside from being a
social destination for Lebanese to view each other's pictures
chronicling wild Beirut nights, beach excursions and school
graduations, Facebook contains political content, of
increasing importance to youth in Lebanon. The Embassy
profile, however, remains apolitical, designed to promote PD
programs to Lebanese from all backgrounds, especially those
outside of the Embassy's physical reach. End comment.