After a week-long shutdown
The anti-government protests against President Hosni Mubarak‘s 30 year regime have spilled onto the Internet. Aware of the journalistic role of social networking websites like Twitter played to bypass the media blackout imposed by the Iranian regime, the Egyptian government had pre-emptively blocked access to Internet throughout the country. Google responded by launching a phone service allowing users without Internet access to leave voice mails on Twitter.
The Internet shutdown served to fuel the rage of the protesters further. The Internet and SMS ban seemed futile considering the fact that the protesters swell to about quarter of a million in the streets of Cairo. In the wake of mounting pressure the Hosni Mubarak regime has resumed Internet connectivity in the country, as confirmed by Hassan Kabbani, chief executive of cellphone-service provider MobiNil. Essential banking websites, ATMs, as well as social networking platforms are accessible throughout Egypt since yesterday noon.
Unlike the unchallenged success of the social networking in its journalistic role, Egypt has evinced how easy it is to pull the plug on the Internet, especially when you have power over the ISP and the Internet backbone through the country. However, gagging the people may seem easy; it does expose the perpetrator to international pressure.
Egypt may have been able to quell the voice of the nation for a week, but shutting the Internet down doesn’t make strategic sense. After all, even with the Internet down, the protestors still found alternate means to mobilise a 250,000 strong crowd on February 1.