1.28.2011

No Justice, No Tweet? Egyptian Revolution Underway as Government Shuts Down Internet Access


Source: Al-Jazeera English

About a half-hour past midnight on Friday in Egypt, the internet went dead.

Almost simultaneously, the handful of companies that pipe the internet into and out of Egypt went dark as protesters were gearing up for a fresh round of demonstrations calling for the end of president Hosni Mubarak's nearly 30-year rule, experts said.

Egypt has apparently done what many technologists thought was unthinkable for any country with a major internet economy: It unplugged itself entirely from the internet to try and silence dissent.

Experts say it is unlikely that what has happened in Egypt could happen in the United States because the US has numerous internet providers and ways of connecting to the internet. Co-ordinating a simultaneous shutdown would be a massive undertaking.

"It can't happen here," said Jim Cowie, the chief technology officer and a co-founder of Renesys, a network security firm in Manchester, New Hampshire, that studies internet disruptions.

"How many people would you have to call to shut down the US internet? Hundreds, thousands maybe? We have enough internet here that we can have our own internet. If you cut it off, that leads to a philosophical question: Who got cut off from the internet, us or the rest of the world?"

In fact, there are few countries anywhere with all their central internet connections in one place or so few places that they can be severed at the same time. But the idea of a single "kill switch" to turn the internet on and off has seduced some American lawmakers, who have pushed for the power to shutter the internet in a national emergency.

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