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Egypt: An Internet Black Hole

This post is part of our special coverage of Egypt Protests 2011.

Over the past few days, as protesting Egyptians have utilized social media tools for organizing and disseminating information, they've also come across numerous obstacles to access: On January 25, Twitter was reportedly blocked, with Facebook following the next day.  By the 27th, access to both sites was sporadic.

At around 1:00 am in Cairo on Friday, January 28–a day of planned protests–reports began to trickle in that the Internet had become inaccessible to Egyptians in Cairo and Alexandria.  A few minutes later, @iman_said tweeted:

yes, CNN confirms internet is down in ALL of Egypt. Egypt now is total blackhole #jan25 #egypt #SHAME

Shortly thereafter, Alaa Abd El Fattah (@alaa), an Egyptian based in South Africa, warned:

we should be prepared for total mobile phone blackout tomorrow also (or at least in protest hotspots) #Jan25

Jacob Appelbaum (@ioerror), an American who has been reporting instances of Internet filtering in Egypt, confirmed the almost-complete block, saying:

It sure looks like nearly all of Egypt is offline – only their SS7 network seems to be working. #jan25 #egypt

Those working to contact friends and family in Egypt expressed frustration and concern over Twitter.  @alaa explained:

cell phones still working in egypt that's how I'm staying in touch, but service spotty in areas

The view from the U.S. is somewhat encouraging; in an interesting twist, Alec Ross (@alecjross), Senior Adviser for Innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, tweeted in Arabic:

أننا ندعو السلطات المصرية أن تسمح بالاحتجاجات السلمية ، كما ندعو أن تمتنع عن التدخل في وسائل التواصل الاجتماعي #jan25 #Egypt
We call upon the Egyptian authorities to allow peaceful protests, and call on them to refrain from interfering with means of social communication.

Despite the block, it appears that a few remaining Egyptians are still tweeting in hopes of getting news out to the world. In light of the blackout, Global Voices will attempt to report from phone calls and other communications over the course of the next few days.

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  • مثلما ساندنا الشعب المصري في ثورتنا وتظاهر أمام سفارتنا في القاهرة ، وجب علينا التضامن مع أشقاءنا في مصر ،لنقم بوقفة إحتجاجية غدا الجمعة 28/01/2011 أما سفارة مصر بتونس ، يرجى النشر

  • The people in Egypt are under governmental siege. Mubarak regime is banning Facebook, Twitter, and all other popular internet sites Now, the internet are completely blocked in Egypt. Tomorrow the government will block the 3 mobile phone network will be completely blocked. And there is news that even the phone landlines will be cut tomorrow, to prevent any news agency from following what will happen.

    Suez city is already under siege now. The government cut the water supply and electricity, people, including, children and elderly are suffering there now. The patients in hospitals cannot get urgent medical care. The injured protesters are lying in the streets and the riot police are preventing people from helping them. The families of the killed protesters cannot get the bodies of their sons to bury them. This picture is the same in north Saini (El-Sheikh zoyad city) and in western Egypt (Al-salom). The riot police is cracking down on protesters in Ismailia, Alexandria, Fayoum, Shbin Elkoum, and Cairo, the capital, in many neighborhoods across the city.

    The government is preparing to crackdown on the protesters in all Egyptian cities. They are using tear gas bombs, rubber and plastic pullets, chemicals like dilutes mustard gas against protesters. Several protesters today have been killed when the armored vehicles of the riot police hit them. Officials in plain clothes carrying blades and knives used to intimidate protesters. Thugs deployed by the Egyptian Ministry of Interior are roaming the streets of Cairo, setting fire on car-wheels as means of black propaganda to demonize protesters and justify police beatings and state torture

    All this has been taken place over the past three days during the peaceful demonstrations in Cairo and other cities. Now, with the suspicious silence of the local media and the lack of coverage from the international media, Mubarak and his gang are blocking all the channels that can tell the world about what is happening.

    People who call for their freedom need your support and help. Will you give them a hand?

    The activists are flooding the net (youtube and other sites) with thousands of pictures and videos showing the riot police firing on armless people. The police started to use ammunition against protesters. 15-year old girl has been injured and another 25 year old man has been shot in the mouth. While nothing of these has appeared in the media, there is more to happen tomorrow. Will you keep silent? Will you keep your mouth shut while seeing all these cruelty and inhumane actions?

    We don’t ask for much, just broadcast what is happening

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