Monday, January 31, 2011

Egypt’s Internet Shutdown Can’t Stop Mass Protests

Egypt’s Internet Shutdown Can’t Stop Mass Protests

Egyptian anti-government activists chant slogans and hold a poster of the Egyptian resident Mubarak, with Arabic reading: "Mercy mercy, you traitor to your people," as they protest in Cairo on Friday. The Egyptian capital was the scene of violent chaos Friday, when tens of thousands of anti-government protesters stoned and confronted police, who fired back with rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons. Muhammed Abu Zaid/AP Photo

[Updated 9:40 a.m. with Obama comment on freedoms. At bottom.]

Protesters have flooded the streets of Alexandria and Suez. In Cairo, they’re publicly praying in the thoroughfare. And the Egyptian government can’t seem to stop them, despite the crackdown on internet access and cellular communications.

The past four days’ worth of protests in Egypt, spurred by those that dethroned the Tunisian government Jan. 14, have been accelerated by social media. The #Jan25 hashtag gave the leaderless revolt an internal organizing tool and global communications reach.

So it shouldn’t be surprising that the Mubarak regime responded by ordering the withdrawal of more than 3,500 Border Gateway Protocol routes by Egyptian service providers, shutting down approximately 88 percent of the country’s internet access, according to networking firm BGPMon.

But the so-called “Day of Wrath” is uninterrupted. On al-Jazeera a few minutes ago, a functionary from Mubarak’s National Democratic Party called the uprising “unprecedented” and conceded that the government needs a “nontraditional way of dealing with this,” including “action against corruption, against poverty … [giving] more freedoms.” He said all this while police and the Army are firing tear gas at the demonstrators.

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