According to the World Wide Web, Egypt doesn’t exist.
Following widespread protests on Jan. 25, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak instituted internet censorship in an attempt to curb protesting. The blackouts effectively unplugged all of Egypt from the internet.
To separate Egypt from the rest of the world, the government had to take advantage of the limited diversity in internet providers — a technique that would not have been a viable in a country like the United States, Electrical and Systems Engineering professor Roch Guerin said.
By telling these providers to withdraw information packets from other providers, Egypt has found a way to “stop telling the outside that [they] exist,” Guerin said.
But for Egyptians, it’s the internet that doesn’t exist. Typing in any website name into a browser yields nothing, thanks to the disruption of a domain name system which directs browsers to websites, Guerin explained.
According to Law School professor Regina Austin, the lack of internet access is likely to diminish the effectiveness of protestors since they cannot easily gauge how their actions are influencing the global community. College junior and Egyptian national Marwa Ibrahim agreed with Austin, but believes that Mubarak is also using the lack of Internet “to monopolize on information about the demonstrations and discredit the protests.”
Wharton and College junior Patrick Elyas — who has family in Egypt — is doubtful that the internet shut-off will affect anything. “The internet was important to get the protests started,” Elyas said. But now the movement already has momentum, and the internet shut-off “won’t make a difference.”
“Everybody knows where to go,” Elyas explained. Over the weekend, many Muslims took advantage of communal prayer in Mosques to meet, effectively making up for the lack of internet communication, he said.
Other forms of communication have developed solely to get around the internet shut-off. Google has launched a new service which connects Egyptians to the internet through their phones. The service enables Egyptians to post twitter messages by dialing a number and recording a message.
Although Elyas noted that the Egyptian government has begun shutting off cell-phone service in an attempt to be proactive, anticipate demonstrations and further isolate the protestors, he believes Mubarak’s attempts to remain in power are “not sustainable.”
Unplugging Egypt from the internet may help “keep things under the lid” and solve short-term problems, Guerin explained, but “if they keep that for too long, they’re going to have enormous [economic problems].”
But Elyas is optimistic that these protests forecast change for the better in Egypt. According to him, they may be a chance for the Egyptian people to “have control of their own destiny.”Comments powered by Disqus
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