So I managed to stick to my New Year’s resolution to post here at least once a week for exactly three weeks, Readers Mine, but at last the inevitable happened and I let it slide last week. Still, no great harm done I expect, and we’re here now, so I might as well try and figure out something to write about.
Well, here’s something disturbing from Mobiledia: It seems that the government of Egypt under President Hosni Mubarak has managed to cut the entire country off from the World Wide Web. As of today, the last ISP in Egypt has apparently shut down, effectively cutting the country off from international internet access. The Egyptian government is responding to the use of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter by anti-government protesters to organize and mobilize. According to Renesys, an internet monitoring firm, the last Egyptian internet link to the wider world went dark at 20:46 UTC, or about 3:46pm EST. This is the first time a government has managed to cut its country’s access to the internet, and the results promise to be unpredictable. Egypt trades on international markets, and the internet has increasingly become the standard tool for international finance worldwide. Of course, cellular systems are apparently functioning, though they too were blacked out for a short period Friday.
The surprising thing isn’t the government’s attempt to deny the protesters ready access to international connectivity, but rather that the government was able to succeed in the attempt. Internal, national networks are apparently still functioning, but nothing is getting in or out. This marks a dangerous precedent. If Egypt can exercise such control over its citizens’ access to the internet, how likely is it that other governments can’t? Oh, I suppose the wealthy west would probably be a more difficult exercise in control (the more complex a system is the harder it is to control, generally speaking), but think about it folks, an entire nation has just disappeared off the grid, and tens of thousands of people who have taken to the streets to try and get a little more liberty and a little more say in their own country’s political process have lost the ability to communicate news about what’s happening in Egypt to non-Egyptian government controlled entities. There will be no viral videos of dying teenagers in Cairo’s streets, or of Egyptian Army units opening fire on protesters, no international surge of support as for the Iranian Greens.
But if the internet has taught us anything, it is that there are more than twelve ways to skin a cat, and revolutions have been happening since long before Edison told Watson to “come here.” The human animal is the most cunning and dangerous critter this planet has ever evolved, especially in crowds. So here’s sending hopes and prayers to Egyptian friends and, as Bogy put it, “Success to crime!”