Virtual Insanity: Egypt Shuts Down Internet as Protests Intensify

In an unprecedented move, virtually all internet access in Egypt has been cut off as the government struggles to gain control of street protests.

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Egyptian protesters march through the streets of Cairo.

The Telegraph (U.K.) is reporting that Egypt's government has cut off all Internet access in order to gain control of street protests that threaten to "topple" President Hosni Mubarak. Organizations that track global Internet access detected a collapse in traffic into and out of Egypt at around 10:30 GMT on Thursday night. The shutdown involved the withdrawal of more than 3,500 Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) routes by Egyption ISPs, according to Renesys, a networking firm. Only one ISP out of 10, Noor Data Networks, appeared largely unaffected. It connects to the outside world via an undersea cable operated by Telecom Italia. Eighty-eight percent of Internet access was effectively shut down. Guess who still has Internet access? The powers that be and the Egyptian stock exchange.

The Egyptian government's action is unprecedented in the history of the Internet. Countries such as China, Iran, Thailand and Tunisia have cut off access to news websites and social networking services during periods of unrest, as Egypt did when it cut off Facebook and Twitter earlier this week. The ongoing attempt by the Egyptian government to shut down all online communication is, however, a new phenomenon. It not only prevents ordinary Egyptian Internet users from accessing any websites, but it cripples Tor, an anti-censorship tool that technical experts and activists were using to circumvent the Facebook and Twitter blocks.

North Korea is the only country that has never allowed its citizens access to the Internet. You know you're doing wrong when you share a precedent with North Korea. Shutting down Internet access is the very reason that Egyptians are protesting. Citizens want democracy, and cutting tools that promote democracy will only make them more fired up.

What dictators like Mubarak fail to realize is that it isn't access to the so-called outside world that drives citizens' need for democracy and independence; it is their everyday experience of oppression and tyranny that fuels their action. Just because the revolution won't be digitized does not mean there won't be a revolution.

Read more at the Telegraph.

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