Internet Security Savvy is Critical as Egyptian Government Blocks Websites, Arrests Activists in Response to Continued Protest

As we’ve seen in Iran and Tunisia, social networking tools have given activists in authoritarian regimes a powerful voice, which can be heard well beyond their own country. But the use of social networking tools has also given their governments ways to identify and retaliate against them. This week we are watching the same dynamic play out in Egypt. This is why it is critical that all activists — in Egypt and elsewhere — take precautions to protect their anonymity and freedom of expression. The protests in Egypt this week also highlight another important point: authoritarian governments can block access to social media websites, but determined, tech-savvy activists are likely to find ways to circumvent censorship to communicate with the rest of the world.In an attempt to clamp down on Egyptian protesters, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s government is intermittently blocking websites and arresting bloggers, journalists, and dissidents. Like the Tunisians, Egyptian protesters have made heavy use of social media websites to share information about the protests with the outside world and with each other. In spite of the Egyptian government’s blocking of Twitter, tweets from the Egyptian protests in Suez and Cairo provided up-to-the-minute reports about protest activity, the movements of police, deaths and injuries, links to photos on Twitpic, and videos on YouTube. Cooperation amongst protesting citizens has kept communications resilient so far. When protestors in Cario’s Tahir Square experienced an outage in cell phone data service, nearby residents reportedly opened their home Wi-Fii networks to allow protesters to get online. see:CDT Statement on Egypt Shutting Down Internet Access
Today, the Center for Democracy & Technology released the following statement in response to the news that Egypt had cut Internet access and mobile services throughout the country: shuts off the Internet – Sen. Lieberman take note by Milton Mueller
By now almost everyone connected to the Internet knows that Egypt has literally cut off the entire country from Internet access and mobile telecommunication. Aside from joy at the contagious challenge to dictators we see unfolding in the region, and concern about the safety of the people there, we have two immediate observations.First, Tunisia and now Egypt stand as powerful checks on the increasingly popular view that transnational connections and Internet freedom, or freedom of communications generally, make no difference in the struggle against authoritarianism.

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