A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Is Egypt Shutting Out the World Before Tomorrow?

UPDATE II: Several activists and two of the senior Brotherhood figures have been arrested in the small hours of the morning apparently. Tomorrow is going to be serious business, I fear.

If this story is true, it could be a bad augury for tomorrow. Why would security forces burn cars unless they're acting as provocateurs to justify a hard crackdown?

Egyptian bloggers and tweeters have been reporting major problems accessing the Internet altogether — not just Twitter and Facebook, which have reportedly been sporadically down for the last couple of days. Yesterday Suez was cut off — mobile service, landlines, SMS, even in some neighborhoods electrical power. If they shut down all Internet access, the outside world is going to have problems reporting tomorrow's demonstration. Many foreign media have already been arrested but later released.

It worked in Iran in 2009. Can it work in Egypt? It's generally even more connected, but we'll see. (Shades of when I first lived in Egypt in 1972, when the phone system was undependable and getting a phone line took years, as opposed to now, when everyone's mobile.)


McDevite said...

I suppose this is rather more impressive than Tunisia and leaves something like 4Chan and Anonymous no opportunity to shove back. Hmmm.

Michael Collins Dunn said...


Anonymous seemed to have hacked the Ministry of Information website Tuesday: but that doesn't accomplish much.

McDevite said...

Fair enough. Then again, it looks like it wouldn't have mattered much; given current reports, the regime would never have flinched from using the army.

That said, it does raise questions about infrastructure and lines of control. Egypt ends up being more like Iran in 2009 than Tunisia just a month ago. Unfortunate, but unsurprising; I really wish this would get folks like Andrew Sullivan to walk back their faith in the internet as a savior, and more along Lynch's framework, which I think is right--or at least closer to it.

Michael Collins Dunn said...

Very true. But unlike Iran in 2009, Egypt depends heavily on tourism and trade. If the Internet is shut down for long, there's a price. (And the violence in Suez and Ismailia could create trouble for another key currency earner, the Canal.

Ben Wedemann of CNN tweeted tonight that he couldn't check into a hotel since Reservations couldn't access the Internet. Egypt may not mind a CNN correspondent inconvenienced right now, but any profound shutdown will wreck commerce. And winter is a good season for European tourism. You can shut down the Internet and act like North Korea, but you may end up with their economy. And the economy is one major factor already.