Technology & Science

Egypt online again

Egyptian internet networks are online again early this morning after six days under a nation-wide disconnect imposed by the government.
The majority of new Twitter updates coming out of Egypt on Feb. 2 said government supporters and those in opposition had begun to clash in violent conflicts. ((Khalil Hamra/AP))
Egyptian internet networks are online again early this morning after six days under a nation-wide disconnect imposed by the government.

Internet and cellphone data services had been unavailable in Egypt since Friday, three days after thousands of protesters took to the streets in Cairo and other major cities to demonstrate against the government of President Hosni Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt for three decades. The government ordered internet service providers to cut service early Friday morning.

Nearly full service was restored today at around 11:30 a.m. Cairo time, with much of the remaining networks soon following suit, said Renesys, a firm that analyzes internet traffic and trends.

In the span of about an hour and a half, the company reported that all of Egypt's major service providers had returned to accessibility and that social media sites were also active again.

"We confirm that Facebook and Twitter are up and available inside Egypt, at least from the places we can monitor. No traffic blocks are in place — no funny business," wrote Renesys employee James Cowie in a blog post.

Internet censorship

Many countries monitor and filter their citizens' communications and online activities. But Egypt's decision to simply cut its people off from the internet in an attempt to keep protesters from organizing underlines how worried some governments are about the threat the internet and social media can pose to them.

Egypt on Twitter

Virender Ajmani, who runs the Mibazaar blog, has built a map of the Middle East that shows real time tweets using the #Egypt tag and where they're originating from. He told CBC News that Twitter traffic recorded on his map increased substantially throughout the morning on Feb. 2 after Egypt restored internet access.

"Twitter gives one a picture of what's happening on the ground," Ajmani said. "I want to share that info with the rest of the world who might not get real time news ... With Twitter you get info being generated from multiple locations in real time. Thanks to [the] Twitter API and Google Maps API I am able to present the info from the ground to the masses across the globe via the web on a map."

The king of Nepal disabled all internet and phone connections in 2005 to prevent rebellious movements from organizing against him, for example. Similarly, during the 2007 Burmese election, access to the internet was cut in an attempt to limit information regarding pro-democracy protests.

"If you step back, these type of controls are generally growing in scope, scale and sophistication," Ron Deibert, director of the Canada Centre for Global Security Studies and the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, told CBC News last week when Egypt ordered its internet and cellphone data services shut down. He said his research team has identified at least 40 countries that engage in some form of internet filtering.