Egypt Cuts the Internet in the Face of Revolution

When people of all ages, social classes, and religions are willing to die for the cause, there is no stopping a revolution.

By + More

Here in Washington, the snow has knocked out electricity and cable TV in many neighborhoods, so the live pictures of Egyptian unrest on television. The best thing to do is to go on a computer or mobile device to see what’s really going on. So far, the Washington Post’s website is carrying a live video stream from Al-Jazeera, and MSNBC is following the English version of the RNN Facebook page. (RNN is the Rassd News Network, a citizen-journalist website.) When the unrest started on the streets of Tehran in 2009, everyone followed on Twitter, until the Iranian government briefly interrupted online service. But the Egyptian government has completely shut down all Internet service, in an unprecedented move cutting all four major Internet providers there at exactly 12:34 a.m. last night. Take a look at this graphic from Newser.

[ Read: Tunisia's Lessons for Repressive Regimes.]

The Egyptian government has not only cut off Facebook and Twitter for the protesters, it has cut off the nation’s ties to the rest of the world, which could stop their economy cold. Reports are that the Egyptian stock market still has access to the Internet, but who knows how long that will last as word gets out. Here’s a disturbing quote from Newser:

Could the Internet similarly be turned off in the United States? "It can't happen here," said the security expert. "How many people would you have to call to shut down the US Internet? Hundreds, thousands maybe?" Not that politicians aren't trying—a controversial bill that would give the president an Internet "kill switch" in the event of a "national cyber-emergency" resurfaced earlier this week.

The BBC explains why the Egyptian government shut down the Internet last night:

Friday's rallies in Egypt were expected to be the biggest so far, with people urged via internet sites to join after attending prayers. The organisers called on people to come out in force, stressing that the religion of protesters was not relevant. Egyptian film-maker Ahmed Rasheed, who was planning to take part in Friday's demonstrations, said people no longer feared arrest.  "We have broken this fear barrier," he told the BBC. "People are taking to the streets, young people, all walks of life, educated, non-educated, higher social classes, lower social classes.”

When people of all ages and social classes and religions—which is quite a statement in the Middle East—have lost their fear of protesting and are willing to lose their lives for the cause, there is no stopping a revolution. Who knows where this will lead. [ See an opinion slide show of 5 Ways Arab Governments Resist Democracy.]