Can the Internet Tame Governments? – Part I: Egypt’s government pulled a kill-switch on its internet, yet protesters’ resilience endured by James Cowie

For years, the internet community has monitored the evolution of online communication restrictions imposed by governments such as Iran and China. On 28 January, Egypt raised the bar on censorship with its “kill-switch” strategy, eliminating internet connectivity and suppressing data communications nationwide for five days. Against such a strategy, traditional circumventions such as mirror sites, proxy servers and encryption were useless. Egyptian internet users, about 20 percent of the population, were left with few options, turning to antiquated dialup modems, ham radio or satellite phones to reconstruct a few painful connections to the outside world.Many observers expressed surprise, believing the internet was impervious to political attack, capable of routing around the damage. In the popular imagination, the internet is the “unkillable network,” designed to preserve communications during nuclear war. Yet the government of Egypt managed to disconnect millions, in the space of about 20 minutes, and restored service just as abruptly five days later.

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