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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Reports say Egypt Web shutdown is coordinated, extensive

To combat social media, another important weapon for the demonstrators, outside experts and people living in the country say the government has coordinated a blockage of certain communications websites and unplugged internet access entirely to parts of the country.

On Thursday, protesters active on Twitter and Facebook, publicly documenting demonstrations on the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and other cities, went quiet. Around the same time, many websites centralized on servers in Egypt disappeared.

Cellular telephone operators were told by authorities to suspend services in parts of Egypt, according to a statement from Vodafone, a global cell carrier that operates there. Lack of cell and landline phone service could prove to be a bigger obstacle to demonstration organizers than the internet disruption. Many of Egypt's impoverished citizens don't rely on the Web in their day-to-day lives anyway, said Parvez Sharma, a documentary filmmaker on Middle Eastern culture.

Before Thursday's seemingly more concerted halt of internet services, access to Twitter and Facebook in Egypt was becoming spotty.

These services have played major roles in protests in Tunisia and Iran and for dissidents in China. They had begun to explode alongside street protests.

When social media websites were blocked, many in Egypt had found their way around it by using software called proxies.

This remains a common practice for people in China looking to skirt the government's "great wall" blocking certain Web services. Proxies can trick internet providers and routing services designed to block certain cities or countries into believing that a person is located elsewhere.

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