Google's exec in Egypt set free

February 7, 2011: 10:44 AM ET

Wael Ghonim, Google's executive in Egypt and one of the leaders of the uprising, has been missing for a ten days.  now Al Arabiya television says he's been set free.

Ten days ago, just as things were getting hot in Egypt, Wael Ghonim tweeted, "Pray for #Egypt. Very worried as it seems that government is planning a war crime tomorrow against people. We are all ready to die #Jan25".  That was the last communications heard from the Google (GOOG) executive.

Now Al Arabiya television via Reuters is reporting that he's been set free. (Update: State Department confirms)

Mr. Ghonim's social-media savvy  helped spark the massive demonstrations threatening MuBarak's ruling regime.

The WSJ reports that Ghonim has seen this day coming for awhile:

"I said one year ago that the Internet will change the political scene in Egypt and some Friends made fun of me :)," Mr. Ghonim wrote on his personal Facebook profile for friends after two days of swelling protests in Cairo. The next day, Jan. 28, he disappeared.

During his disappearance, Mr. Ghonim, a father of two who is in his 30s, emerged as a central symbol of the anti-government protests, cast as the face of a movement and hero in the cause of democracy. Protest organizers in Cairo's central Tahrir Square adopted him as a symbolic leader. Suspecting his arrest—but having no proof—they declared in speeches that they wouldn't leave the square until he was freed. Marchers carried homemade signs emblazoned with his name. At the same time, some local media suggested the political activities of Mr. Ghonim, who is Google's head of marketing for the Middle East and North Africa, make him a traitor to his nation.

The Egyptian protests are a new breed of social unrest with communications fueled by social media sites like Google's YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.  Iran's protests last year were fueled by Twitter.  So much so that the US State department asked Twitter not to shut down for routine maintenance during the revolt.

Egyptian protesters charging their cellphones on the streets.  Are these the 21st century weapons?

For Google, they just want to see their employee released back to his family safely.

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About This Author
Seth Weintraub
Seth Weintraub

Google went from searching the Web to worming its way into nearly every facet of business and government. Seth Weintraub unveils where the company is going, who it's competing with, who it's about to compete with and how market forces push the company to veer or adhere to its Don't Be Evil motto. For 15 years, Weintraub was a global IT director for a number of companies before becoming a blogger.

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