Internet lockdown inflames Egypt

Gisela Lagos

Politicians in the United States are trying to follow in Egypt’s footsteps with internet regulations, ignoring the civilian backlash in order to push their own agendas.

On Jan. 27 the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak shut off an internet and cell phone provider after realizing that the anti-Mubarak groups were rallying support on the internet. The protesters were using social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to organize rallies and sit-ins against Mubarak. The days that followed Mubarak shut off more and more internet and phone providers, making it nearly impossible for the Egyptian citizens to connect online and with their family and friends.

The down internet connection didn’t sway the Egyptian citizens from rallying against Mubarak as they flooded the streets in even more anti-government protests.

To make matters worse the outcry from Egyptian citizens brought the injustice to the forefront of news organizations around the world. No longer was it just the Egyptians against their government, but many other countries stood up in support of the protestors. The United States was pushed into taking a stance in support of a new government rule, albeit reluctantly.

Leaders of other countries in similar disarray spoke out in support of the protesters to squelch the possibility of an uprising in their countries.

Several countries and organizations came together to insure that Egypt has a voice.

Google set up a phone line where Egyptians could leave a voice message and it was turned into a twitter feed. They were also able to send picture messages and videos of everything that was happening on the streets. Other organizations are taking donations to create online networks that originate outside of Egypt and are encrypted so the government cannot track the Egyptian user’s history.

While there is room for government oversight in many areas of the internet, the idea of a complete internet shut off in the United States would most likely be meet with worse backlash than that of Egypt.

In the United States Senator Joe Lieberman has been speaking out for similar internet regulations, saying that a “shut off” switch may be needed in case of a “cyber-security emergency”. What Lieberman and other government officials are ignoring is that the Egyptian citizens were still able to be heard, but more importantly that the internet shut off pushed forward the protests to an epic proportion.

U.S. citizens are attached to free speech and accept regulations only as needed. Since 9/11 people have given up many of their rights, but the ability to hold peaceful protest and practice their freedom of speech is not something that Egypt took lightly nor something that U.S. citizens should tolerate.

“Those who make peaceful protest impossible, make violent protest inevitable” John F. Kennedy