Technewsworld.com ran an article by Richard Adhikari entitled “Egyptian Government Excecutes Nationwide Internet Blockade,” featuring quotes from Syracuse University School of Information Studies (iSchool) Professor Milton Mueller.
“I do not see how shutting off the entire mobile phone network and Internet does anything except prevent the Egyptian people from knowing what is going on and preventing them from acting together,” Mueller was quoted as saying.
Reacting to a wave of anti-government protesters and civil unrest, the government of Egypt has reportedly cut off nearly all Internet traffic into and out of the country. Cairo ordered all Internet Service Providers to shut down all international connections to the Internet overnight on January 27, 2011, though it had already suspended access to social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.
Though some government sympathizers see the restrictions as an attempt to reestablish order, Mueller disagreed.
“I would view it entirely as a blow against free speech and an attempt to make it easier for a dictator to hang onto power,” Mueller told Adhikari. “I watched the 1968 Democratic convention on TV as an adolescent. Had that been censored, it would have been a dark day for the country. It was public awareness of this disorder that led to important political changes.”
The government mandated Egyptian Internet blackout brings to the table discussions of state-mandated Internet censorship. For example, the Australian government has banned sexually explicit content since 1999, Adhikari pointed out. Even members of the United States Congress, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn) and Sen. Susan Collins are sponsoring a bill that would grant the president the power to shut down the Internet in a cybersecurity emergency.
“Popularly known as the ‘kill switch’ bill, this was first introduced last summer but didn’t get passed by the full Senate,” Adhikari wrote, and then asked, “If such a bill was passed, could Washington be tempted at some point to shut off social media for the sake of public order?”
“Shutting off all public communications can only be an attempt to keep people helpless and in the dark,” Mueller answered. “It’s not related to the restoration of public order.”