Watching Egypt online as it goes offline

Internet and cellphone lines may be shut down in Egypt, but the technological blackout has done little to stifle news leaking to the outside world. A roundup of the best sites.

Internet and cellphone lines may be shut down in Egypt, but the technological blackout has done little to stifle news leaking to the outside world. The web is abuzz with live TV streams, tweets, info graphics and on-scene reports.

Here's a roundup of some of the best standout websites and features covering the anti-government demonstrations. 

Live coverage

Among the most riveting live TV coverage  was on Al-Jazeera's website. The Arabic news agency also compiled amateur videos from the street, created maps showing the geographic spread of protests within Egypt and hosted a Flickr compilation of photos.

Al-Jazeera's live stream of coverage from Egypt's streets.

BBC, on the other hand, took a more multi-media approach, streaming its TV coverage alongside Twitter and adding relevant links.

Naturally, the go-to website for live coverage was Twitter, despite service disruptions to the cellular networks and many internet connections in Egypt preventing many citizens from posting online. To circumvent the usual channels, some people used satellite internet connections. CNN's Ben Wedeman (@cnnben) has continued tweeting despite the internet lockdown, as has Al-Jazeera's Dan Nolan (@nolanjazeera ). Others worth following are noted on CBC's Twitter list  set up for the Egypt protests.

The trending tweet most illustrative of the clampdown so far was this:

Tweet about censorship in Egypt. ((CBC))

The internet shutdown

Perhaps the singular most gripping graphic showing the sudden communications shutdown in Egypt was a chart by Craig Labovitz, chief scientist for the internet security company Arbor Networks. The precipitous drop charted in MBps — megabits per second, a measurement of the flow of information online — occurred around 5:20 p.m. ET Jan. 27, or 12:20 a.m. local time Jan. 28. Here's the most recent graph created by Labovitz:

(Arbor Networks)

Beyond the live coverage

Online communication is often touted as a great enabler of democracy and freedom of speech. But despite the ubiquitous nature of the net, it was surprisingly easy for Egypt to flip the switch and shut down access to it. A blog by GigaOM looks at how the government may have orchestrated the wide-scale shutdown.

The Atlantic goes further and examines the physical web of connections  that make up the world wide web. Could the Egypt shutdown be a sign of things to come? 

The magazine also posted an apparent protest primer circulated by Egyptian activists ahead of Friday's planned demonstrations. Makers of the 26-page pamphlet urged people to distribute it within the country via email, printing and good old fashioned photocopying, rather than Twitter and Facebook, easily scrutinized by government. The document details how best to gather in the street, what kind of protective clothing and accessories to have and ways to thwart armoured trucks. 

(The Atlantic)