Saturday, 29 January 2011

Twitter and Egypt Internet shutdown

Hello readers,

As any of you may have noticed I have recently joined Twitter. It is a fantastic tool for keeping on top of developing news and provides a really useful constant feed of interesting information (although the usefulness does depend on what you choose to follow!). I wish I had started using it sooner instead of presuming it was merely a forum for people to post mundane details about their lives. I will have to try and avoid information overload though as there are many 'tweets' I wish to read and then 'retweet'.
Anyway, I will be using Twitter quite a lot for highlighting what I feel are general points of interest but I will use this blog to cover bigger news stories and items requiring more in depth posts than the 140 characters allowed in Twitter.

The unfolding situation in Egypt where the government has shutdown Internet, social networks and mobile phone access countrywide in an attempt to stop protests has been of great interest. It raises some interesting questions about the role of government in regulating internet intermediaries and also the capacity of the Internet as a communications tool to co-ordinate revolutionary movements. If one considers the role which social networking sites (SNS) during the recent Tunisian revolution and obviously the post election pro riots in Iran in 2009 it is clear why Mubarak is nervous of grassroots revolutionary movements being formed through SNS. Furthermore, the leaning of the government on the ISP's to use their technical capabilities for facilitating Internet shutdown  sounds like a realisation of Lessig's prediction that government, given the political will, can and will use code to create a perfectly regulated space. There has been a  wealth of commentary on this story and some key sources I have been using are academic Ethan Zuckerman here, Human Rights Watch here and the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society here.


EDIT 1: 02/02/11 -  There is a podcast from the Guardian Tech Weekly with Aleks Krotoksi which features discussion on the Egyptian situation here.
It is also interesting to note the use of a new Google tool called "Speak to tweet" as a means of still communicating on SNS without Internet access. See here

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