Friday, 28 January 2011

Internet 'Kill Switches' and the Egyptian Protests

Today, during my morning Twitter check, I found an astounding blog by James Cowie of Apparently, while I was sleeping, the internet was switched off in Egypt. 

Like this:
Image courtesy of

After shutting down mobile phone and text messaging (SMS) services, it seems the Egyptian government has also ordered the big four ISPs  (Link Egypt, Vodafone/Raya, Telecom Egypt, Etisalat Misr) to halt internet provision as well. With the telling exception of, which has these high profile clients.

What were the government hoping to achieve by this? Some would have us believe that they wanted to stem communication between the protestors to help quell the riots. Others would have us believe that they wanted to suppress communication with the international media, so that they could deal with the rioters out of their gaze. It is rumoured that the Egyptian internet went down shortly after a video of a protestor being shot by a sniper was circulated by the Associated Press.

Whatever the cause, can this act, which denied internet access to over 80 million people, be justified? Freedom of the press and freedom of expression are recognised rights of citizens of democracies, but with the internet as a conduit of press freedom and popular expression should we be trying to protect this too?

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