Social Media Flexes Million Strong Muscle as Egypt Blocks Internet

Michael Cerkas's picture

The internet has rapidly become a tactical tool for citizens across the globe to magnify the voices of discord and unrest, share information and organize demonstrations and protests. Nowhere is that trend more evident than in Egypt.

The power of communication and connectedness via the internet transcends time and space. Powerful nations like China and Egypt have already recognized this ability as a threat to the operation and control of their respective governments.

So much so, that China has begun blocking internet searches containing ‘Egypt’ and the Egyptian government has shut the internet down within their national boundaries in response to protests and demonstrations from frustrated and angry citizens determined to make their voices heard and influence change.

In Egypt, access to the internet has been collectively shut down for more than 90% of citizens via browsers and smartphone texting. What is still available, however, is the ability to place telephone calls. People have subsequently leveraged this avenue to remain in voice communication with others.

More shrewdly, people are using their phones to access international dial-up services to get to the internet via proxy software, thwarting the government’s attempt to limit communication. The primary objective of the government in limiting internet access is to prevent the ability of protesting citizens to organize demonstrations to let the ‘voice of the people’ be heard.

Watch a CNN News Report citing China’s recent internet blocking here.

As a result of this ‘back door’ to the internet, citizens are steadfastly working to organize a million-strong march on Cairo on Tuesday as well as a national worker strike in the hope of successfully convincing President Mubarak to resign.

Several countries across the globe, including the United States, Sweden and Spain have reportedly pooled modems to accept international calls from Egypt to enable the communication of Egyptian citizens. Some providers are offering the service for free.

In response to the action of Egypt’s government effectively disabling internet access to citizens, the ISOC (Internet Society) has called Egypt’s action “an inappropriate response to a political crisis” as well as “a very serious intrusion into people’s basic rights.”

In a recent story from Australia’s, it was reported that chants from the crowd in Cairo’s Tahrir Square could be heard saying, “We will stay in the square until the coward leaves.”

As a result of the unrest and protesting, many gasoline stations have run out of fuel as foreigners struggle to leave the country. Many bank ATM’s (Automated Teller Machine) have been looted or destroyed. Banks continue to be closed.

As a real danger to the remainder of the world, escalating violence and protests in Egypt could jeopardize the flow of port traffic through the Suez Canal. Oil prices have already reached $100 a barrel today based on the fear of restricted traffic via the Suez Canal.

From an economic or financial perspective, rating agency Moody’s has downgraded Egypt’s debt rating one level to Ba2 and modified Egypt’s outlook from stable to negative.

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