Sunday, February 6, 2011

Egypt - Internet accessible again in Egypt

Egypt -
Internet accessible again in Egypt
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Reporters Without Borders is pleased that Internet access was restored this morning in Egypt after being blocked for five days, but the organization calls for vigilance. According to tests carried out in Egypt by Reporters Without Borders employees, Twitter and Facebook are again accessible, as are the Al Jazeera website, the online newspaper Al Badil and other news websites.

“Censorship is a strategy that is doomed to fail,” Reporters Without Borders said. “People use ways to get around it. Total blocking just exacerbates popular discontent and has serious economic consequences. We urge the authorities not to give in again to the temptation to block the Internet or use any form of filtering in response to political developments in the days to come.”

Reporters Without Borders also condemns the repressive reactions of various governments which, fearing that the demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt could spread to other countries, are censuring reports about these events and are tightening their control of the Internet.

Syria is reportedly trying to reinforce its system of blocking and controlling emails, Facebook and Twitter. Although already blocked, these two social networks are popular in Syria because they can still be accessed by means of censorship circumvention tools. But now the authorities seem determined to prevent Syrian Internet users from discussing the situation in Egypt.

A Syrian law requiring Internet caf├ęs to ask clients to show ID is to be enforced more strictly. The TV station Al-Arabiya's website, which has been covering the Egyptian protests and condemning censorship, has been rendered inaccessible in Syria. In reprisal, hackers posted this message on the newspaper Bldna's website: “We will not let the media conceal what is happing in Egypt. Here are some headlines about these events.” Reports about the currents protests followed.

China censored online searching on 28 January, blocking the results of searches using the term “Egypt” on Twitter and the equivalent Chinese microblogging services on Sina.com and Sohu.com. Anyone trying this search term gets this message: “According to the laws in force, the result of your search cannot be communicated.”

The hashtag #jan25, referring to the 25 January demonstrations in Egypt, spread like wildfire on the Chinese Internet. The Communist Party seems more scared than ever of political reforms, democratic demands and “public order disturbances.” Dispatches about Egypt that the official news agency Xinhua had published were reportedly suppressed on 30 January.

The Internet has been disrupted during the past few days in Iran. Yahoo! is reportedly being censored. The Reuters website was hard to access on 30 and 31 January, joining already censored sites such as Facebook, Twitter and the BBC site. When Iranian Internet users try to connect to certain foreign news websites, they are reportedly redirected to official sites.

In Gaza, a group of journalists and bloggers who went to cover and participate in a sit-in in solidarity with Egypt on 31 January were arrested, roughed up by the security forces and were held for several hours.

At the height of the Internet blackout in Egypt, Google and Twitter joined forces to help Egyptians get around the censorship. They set up a series of dedicated phone lines that people can call and leave a voice message which is instantly converted into a Tweet with the keyword #egypt. The numbers are +1 650 419 4196, +39 06 62 20 72 94 and +97 316 199 855.

As Egypt's fixed-line telephone system has remained operational, Internet Service Providers abroad have invited Egyptians to use a modem to connect to their services. FDN, a French ISP, provided the number +33 1 7289-0150 as a way to get into its service using the password “toto.” The Swedish ISP Telecomix offered a similar solution using the number +46 8 5000-9990 and the password “telecomix.”

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