Egypt Cuts Off Internet Access

Last week, demonstrations erupted across Egypt calling for the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. Many of the demonstrations were organized through the use of Facebook and Twitter.. “This revolution will be called the revolution of the internet youth,” one member of a Facebook group calling for protests wrote. “We will take it all the way to the end.” Unrest in the country built over the period of days with Egyptian police using tear gas and water cannons in attempts to disperse the crowds. President Obama cautioned the Egyptian government to refrain from using violence against its citizens. Friday, the Egyptian government shut down most Internet and cell phone service in the country in hopes of inhibiting communication between organizers and between Egypt and the rest of the world. It is unprecedented for a modern country like Egypt, with 80 million citizens, to shut down the Internet. Doing so only enraged protestors further fueling the unrest. Meanwhile other countries have become concerned that the unrest in Egypt might spread to within their own borders. China is filtering out all news about Egypt from its Internet services. Opposition groups in Iran have begun using the Internet to plan their own demonstrations against President Mubarak. The situation illustrates the power of the Internet to aid democracies and empower oppressed groups. It also opens our eyes to the possibility of government control of communications networks in times of crisis.