Offline – Egypt

In response to the growing protests in Egypt, the government has shut down all internet service providers – taking away the internet from the whole country.  They hope that without Facebook and Twitter, fewer mass riots will be able to be coordinated.  While the internet is where the riots have mainly been coordinated from (one message calling for a protest lead to 100,000 people showing up), is it an acceptable mechanism for a government to take the internet away from a while country to try to control the riots?  Or should access to the internet be considered a human right that can’t be taken away?  Is the internet not the best way to quickly let people know of the corrupt government and the need to do something about it?

6 comments

  1. What shocked me the most when reading this post is that the government did not just shut down a certain domain name or block a certain website. The entire internet was shut down. The government could have censored the internet or even applied certain filters to social networking cites in order to prevent organization of groups like Iran did in 2009.

    The internet is not only used by people who are trying to organize, it is also used to get information about what is going on outside of Egypt or by many families communicating with relatives inquiring about their safety. Shutting down the internet was a drastic and extremely radical action. It was not done to insure safety, rather it was done as a last attempt to keep a leader in power.

  2. Shocking to me was the article (below) from the NY Times that said China blocked the word “Egypt” from all internet searches. It also began censoring and coloring the protests preemptively out of (as the article states) to avoid “fanning the flames of unrest.”

    I think we are to the point where an essential human right is the right to information, uncensored and unpolluted. A government afraid of its own people cannot survive for long, and ultimately I think this type of censorship will be a downfall to China.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/01/world/asia/01beijing.html?_r=2&partner=rss&emc=rss

  3. There has been a lot of discussion recently about whether access to the internet is a human right, particularly in light of the situation in Egypt. While most of the world believes it is a human right, no one would have believed it to be so twenty years ago. The internet has not been around forever, but the concept of one’s freedom to voice her opinions and expressions has been considered a human right since the UN adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The internet has become a forum for exercising one’s human right to voice her opinions and expressions. Therefore, it seems to me that by cutting off citizens’ access to the internet, Egypt has violated its citizens’ human rights by taking away their ability to express their opinions.

    Source: http://onfaith.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/panelists/susan_brooks_thistlethwaite/2011/02/internet_access_is_a_new_human_rights_issue.html

  4. Recently I read a NY Times article regarding this instance of when the internet was shut down in Egypt at the direction of former President Hosni Mubarak. The article explained a paper written by Yale grad student Navid Hassanpour titled “Media Disruption Exacerbates Revolutionary Unrest.” In his paper, Hassanpour debates whether or not it was a smart decision for the government ompletely shut down the Internet and cellphone service in the midst of all the protests occurring in Tahrir Square.

    Hassanpour came to the conclusion that many would seem to agree with; that it was not a smart decision by the government. However, Hassanpour reaches this conclusion in a novel way, explaining that “Full connectivity in a social network sometimes can hinder collective action” (Quote taken from NY Times Article, In Unsettled Times, Media Can Be a Call to Action, or a Distraction 8/28/2011).

    The NY Times article goes on to explain Hassanpour’s reasoning that while Tweeting, Texting, Facebook-ing and other sorts of social media may work for spreading the word of protest, the opposite end of the spectrum can also occur, in that it can spread a message of “caution, delay, confusion or, I don’t have time for all this politics, did you see what Lady Gaga is wearing?”

    From this, the article explains Hassanpour’s belief that future protests were not spurred by social media, as many people believe to be the source of many riots, but actually by the lack of social media, causing people to engage in face to face communications throughout the streets of Egypt.

  5. I was in Egypt at the time of the revolution and, as an outsider, I have to say that the shutdown of communications was nothing short of terrifying. It wasn’t simply the fact that you couldn’t catch up on Entertainment Weekly. What was most disconcerting were the false news reports being put out by the government in their propaganda (especially being a Westerner when a lot of this was to stir up anti Western feeling), and the lack of viable news sources so that you could see what was really going on. I am, of course, pleased that the revolution concluded without the turmoil sustained in Libya or Syria, but six months on, with no legitimate government elected, you have to wonder whether the show is now being run just by another finger of the same hand.

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