Egypt Shuts Down the Internet & Social Media

Julie Marsh

social mediaEgyptian citizens are fed up with President Hosni Mubarak, who has ruled for 30 years and whose son, Gamal Mubarak, was expected to be his successor. Mubarak became president of Egypt after the assassination of Anwar Sadat in the early 1980s.

The Egyptian people have grown increasingly restless recently, thanks to poverty and the oppressiveness of the regime. They're seeking government reformation, and Egypt's autocracy is pushing back -- with tear gas, police intervention, and pulling the plug on social media.

Similar to the Iranian government's response to protests, Egypt has blocked digital communication networks, squeezing protestors' ability to advise each other and organize gatherings. Traffic to and from Egypt dropped off almost entirely at 5:20 p.m. ET on January 27, according to a graph produced by Internet security company Arbor Networks.

Egypt has long been a US ally, and the US response thus far has been tempered by that friendly relationship. Vice President Biden said last night that Mubarak is not a dictator, but should be responsive to the protesters (who, in turn, should demonstrate peacefully). Likewise, in a YouTube town hall presentation, President Obama noted our peaceful relationship with Egypt (and Egypt's peaceful relationship with our fellow ally, Israel). But he acknowledged the frustration of the protesters and the need for reform, as well as "the importance of free speech, including access to social networking tools."

Say what you like about the way Americans fuss and fight in full view of the rest of the world: At least our government continues to allow us the freedom to do so.

Image via Asthma Helper/Flickr

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