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Egypt is reportedly trying to eliminate protests by pulling the plug on the nation’s internet connection. It’s a kind of pre-emptive strike against the country’s planned demonstrations tomorrow. Protests have been escalating daily.
Will it work? The country could go in the direction of Tunisia, whose government sank under protests, or Iran, which successfully repressed opposition last year. As we’ve seen over and over again, social media has become a force for change in the world. You can date it back to the peaceful revolution in the Philippines, brought about by protesters using text messages.
Now it’s starting to happen with increasing frequency. It’s reminder that technology can be used as a force for transparency, openness, and political expression. But as we’ve seen with surveillance technology in China, it can also be used as a force for repression and censorship.
Egypt has already reportedly shut down social media services such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google as well as Blackberry phones. The Arabist reported various internet shutdowns around the country and some are confirming that the blackout is complete.
Reuters reported that the Egyptian Prime Minister’s office denied the shutdown, but it was contradicted by companies such as Twitter. Techcrunch reports that the major internet service providers in Egypt are TEDATA, Egynet DSL and Vodaphone. Foreign Policy has pointed out that blocking all internet access is one of the only ways to block access to a site like Twitter, which has lots of applications that let users post to Twitter without ever pointing their browsers at Twitter.com, which is blocked.
Of course, by shutting down the internet, the government can turn the problem into an even bigger one, with the shutdowns affecting businesses, commerce, online banking etc. That’s a way to anger the business community, on top of the protesters who are already upset.
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