Google proud of Wael Ghonim's role in Egyptian protests

CEO Eric Schmidt expressed pride in Google employee Wael Ghonim, who has been credited with helping organize the protests that eventually brought down the Mubarak government.

Wael Ghonim CBS

Google CEO Eric Schmidt said yesterday that he's "very, very proud" of the key role that employee Wael Ghonim played in the recent Egyptian protest movement.

Speaking at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Schmidt addressed the topic of Ghonim, Google's head of marketing for the Middle East and North Africa, who used Facebook and other online tools to help spark the protests in Egypt.

"They were able to use a set of technologies that included Facebook, Twitter and a number of others to really express the voice of the people," Schmidt said, according to AFP and other news sources. "And that is a good example of transparency. And we wish them very much the best. I have talked to [Ghonim]. We are very, very proud of what he has done."

Until recently, Google management had been silent about Ghonim's leading role in the protest movement, leaving some to wonder about the company's position on the matter and whether Ghonim would be allowed to return to his job. In an interview Friday , Ghonim told CBS News' Katie Couric that he and Google mutually agreed it would be best for him to take a leave of absence during his participation in the protests. (CNET News is published by CBS Interactive, a unit of CBS.)

In a separate interview with CBS' "60 Minutes" on Sunday, Ghonim also credited the Internet and social networking as the keys to the revolution.

"If there was no social networks, it would have never been sparked," he told Harry Smith. "Because the whole thing before the revolution was the most critical thing. Without Facebook, without Twitter, without Google, without YouTube, this would have never happened."

Ghonim had initially expressed some uncertainty over his future at the search giant, since his role in the protests did open up a thorny issue of whether and how far company employees should get involved in political movements. But an official tweet posted by Google on Saturday was the first sign that he would be welcomed back to the fold.

Ghonim had been arrested and detained by the Egyptian government for more than two weeks before being freed early last week. In his "60 Minutes" interview, he credited Google with fighting for his release.

 

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