Via Nature Middle East: Science revolution via social media. Excerpt:
The announcement in 2014 that Egypt had invented “devices” that could diagnose and cure AIDS and hepatitis C virus in more than 90% of cases came as a great shock to Egyptian virologist Islam Hussein.
The Engineering Authority of the Egyptian Armed Forces made the spurious claims before an audience that included the interim president Adly Mansour, the former -commander-in-chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces and soon-to-be president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
The new cure would be available in military hospitals on June 30, the authorities claimed.
The news created a storm on traditional and social media platforms in Egypt attracting the attention of Hussein who at his base at MIT in the US. “After watching the press conference and the huge media propaganda that followed, I realized that something terribly wrong was going on. I have never felt that disappointed in my entire life,” he remembers.
“I knew these devices lacked any sound scientific basis. I also knew the impact would be huge given how widespread hepatitis C infection is in Egypt.”
Hussein scoured journal articles and the Internet for information on the devices and the team that claimed to have invented and patented them. He produced a PowerPoint presentation, stood in front of a video camera and, using his expertise as a virologist, proceeded to discredit the claims. Within three days, his 80-minute YouTube video had been viewed 50,000 times.
“All of a sudden this guy comes out on social media with a calm, confident and professional tone and firm promises to deliver a neutral scientific critique of the Armed Forces’ claims,” Hussein says, explaining why he thinks his video became so popular.
Hussein says he was told by the eminent Egyptian historian Dr. Khaled Fahmy that his video had changed the course of action. “My video paved the way for a healthy public debate away from the overheated media propaganda. Talking science and only science made a lot of difference, even to those blind supporters who had strong political agendas.”
Although the public communication of science comes in many forms in the West, it lags behind in the Arab world. “Traditional Arab media, particularly TV, have failed to communicate science well to the general public,” says astrophysicist Nidhal Guessoum from the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. “We do not have our Neil deGrasse Tyson or Brian Cox.”