IEET > Rights > Economic > GlobalDemocracySecurity > Contributors > Kris Notaro
Egypt: Mubarak’s Decision to Shut Down the Internet and Cell Phones: Updated
Kris Notaro   Jan 28, 2011   Ethical Technology  

I’ve spent almost a month in Egypt and can tell you that what I saw was a divide between the rich and poor, corruption, and poverty. As the picture on this page shows of me in Cairo standing in the middle of garbage, something common all over the city, things have got to change. However I also saw the rise of the internet and cell phone use.

Never in the last 30 years under President Mubarak has he seen such powerful protests. The people were originally using the internet and cell phones to pass on information about the protests on the streets. President Mubarak then shut down the cell phone towers and internet connection.

The people of Egypt are allowed to see the government’s TV station. As it turns out, when you cut people off from information exchange anger is obviously the result, and obviously so. According to Al Jazeera people came pouring into the streets moments after the little information they got from their televisions of Mubarak’s speech.

Robert Gibbs, the White House Press Secretary, urges Egypt to turn on the internet and social networks. The U.S. has also stated that they will not give Egypt 1.5 billion dollars if the government uses violent action towards the protesters. It seems that the cell phone towers will not be turned on anytime soon if the protests continue.  It has been stated that protests scheduled for Saturday was called for on the internet days ago. 

The people of Egypt know that the protests have been scheduled, but cannot get onto the internet to do further organizing against this repressive regime. It seems to me that when you cut off the power of the internet and cell phones people just simply get more angry, and will have to turn to taking to the streets to get their information. If this is the case then turning off the internet and cell phones will simply backfire.

The information that Mubarak gave to the people of Egypt was complete BS. He told the people that he is on the side of the poor when he has not been for 30 years, that he will dismantle the government tomorrow, that there will be more political freedom, that people are free to demonstrate, etc, but we know that calling in the armed forces to protect the presidential palace Mubarak has little to no incentive to change.

With police stations burning, 11 dead, Alexandria government buildings burned down, and the ruling parties’ headquarters burned down it seems there is no stopping the people. It also seems next to go will be the Ministry of Information and the Presidential palace. The government is obviously afraid of the people or else they would not have shut down the internet and cell phones. When you take away people’s means of communication during these times it will only lead to anger and revolt.

In the future any revolution like that of what we are seeing in Egypt will need to take seriously the use of “shadow networks”, networks that smart phones allow. What that means is phone connected to phone, connected to phone via Bluetooth and the like, which any government cannot shut down.

I am currently working on an article about how to create a “mesh” or “shadow” network.  The design of these networks are very important because in the upcoming years they will emerge throughout the world. People need to know how to program and create them so that future revolutions can utilize this most important technology.  The internet as we learned from the current Egyptian revolution can be shut down and controlled within minutes which is totally unacceptable because it is one of the most useful tools for organizing.


As of Jan 29, 7:32 AM EST
Info from Al Jazeera

-Dial up internet in use.
-Land lines used to tweet outside of country.
-Tweeting from proxy.
-Negative effect on economy.
-Nations outside Egypt furious over Internet black out.


It is being reported that the last internet connection has been shut off as of Jan 31 and Feb 1, 2011

http://www.voanews.com/english/news/middle-east/In-Egypt-Harsh-Internet-Tactics-Become-Double-Edged-Sword-115048204.html

As of 7:00 AM EST Feb 2, 2011:
info from http://english.aljazeera.net/watch_now/

- Up to two million protesters in Cairo are calling for Mubarak to go
- Demonstrations are taking place all over Egypt
- Around 100 people have died since the beginning of revolution
- Egypt’s Army promises not to attack crowds
- Yemen’s president vows not to run for reelection or pass power to his son in 2013
- Egypt TV channel’s one and two are not fooling the people of Egypt
- Egyptian people still calling for Mubarak to step down even after statements he will not run for reelection
- People using satellites and newspapers to get real news
- Protesters call on world including U.S. to change foreign policy towards Egypt
- Protesters are using English signs because they know people around the world are watching
- Internet popping back up in major cities
- Some people called “Mubarak thugs” are either buying into Egypt’s TV propaganda, or hired to create clashes between pro-Mubarak protests and anti-Mubarak protests.
- people fighting among each other, rocks being thrown.
- Police are said to be in charge of pro-Mubarak trucks blasting national anthem
- Army not interfering

As of 9:10 AM EST Feb 2, 2011:
info from http://english.aljazeera.net/watch_now/

- Gunfire heard
- Pro-Mubarak protesters take control of security vehicles
- Rocks continue to be thrown between two groups
- Knifes and sticks being used

As of 5:50 PM EST Feb 2, 2011:
info from http://english.aljazeera.net/watch_now/
and CNN


- Al Jazeera says that the White House condemns “Mubarak’s thugs”
- Egypt government run TV showing only clips of “pro-Mubarark” protests
- Money being transferred outside of Egypt
- Molotov cocktails being used by anti-Mubarak and pro-Mubarak protesters
- Helicopters circling Tahrir Square
- CNN reporting 600 injured and 3 dead after violent clashes / Al Jazeera says 1,500 injured
- State TV not showing nighttime clashes in Tahrir Square
- According to Al Jazeera, Hillary Clinton demanding transition of power now
- Al Jazeera reporting that internet access is back up and running through out country
- Al Jazeera reporting however that the White House is not taking a strong enough stance in supporting anti-Mubarak protesters


During my trip to Egypt I visited one of the most poverty stricken area south of Giza. This area is where Cairo gets most of its food. The farmers there need major help. The images to the right show the water ways which the farmers use to irrigate their crops.  Just one more example why Mubarak has got to go.


40% of Egyptians live under the poverty line. This image is of “Garbage City” from the documentary Garbage Dreams garbagedreams.com People living in this area of Cairo used to have jobs collecting and recycling garbage, but the government has been privatizing garbage collection, and the poverty in this area is increasing.

As of 10:26 PM EST Feb 2, 5:26 AM Feb 3, 2011: Egypt time:
info from http://english.aljazeera.net/watch_now/
and CNN


- Anti-Mubarak demonstrators are in charge of Six of October Bridge
- Shots being fired into crowd
- Tanks are leaving / some going towards people firing guns
- Gunfire might be snipers / police / and Mubarak-Thugs
- Thugs turn out to be police and government workers according to the army
- Up to six people dead in peaceful protest area from gunshots

As of 3:50 PM EST Feb 3, 2011:
info from http://english.aljazeera.net/watch_now/
and CNN


- Journalists being attacked / Cameras confiscated
- Mubarak regime behind attacks according to CNN and Al Jazeera
- United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemns attacks on journalists
- She also urges peaceful immediate transition of power
- Al Jazeera and CNN attacked / Al Jazeera journalist missing
- Internet back up and running
- People using Twitter and Youtube to get out some information
- Large protests planned for Friday Feb 4th, 2011

As of 8:40 AM EST Feb 4, 2011:
info from http://english.aljazeera.net/watch_now/
and CNN, MSNBC


- Hundreds of thousands demanding Mubarak step down in Liberation Square
- Al Jazeera has live cameras back up
- Pro-Democracy demonstrators say they will continue until Mubarak steps down
- MSNBC reporting that U.S. is not doing enough to oust Mubarak
- MSNBC claiming that that U.S. does not have a plan / nor should we in my opinion
- U.S. uses dictators for foreign policy / claims Mubarak was a peaceful person for the region but not the people of Egypt / MSNBC reporting typical corporate nonsense
- Al Jazeera reporting however that U.S. is planning on helping with transition government
- Bottom line is that people came pouring out to liberation square demanding transition now / Today’s protests called “Day of Departure”
- People from all walks of life, protesting regardless of age, gender, or religion
- Largest protests in Alexandria so far

As of 11:30 PM EST Feb 4, 2011:
info from http://english.aljazeera.net/watch_now/ and
http://www.democracynow.org/tags/egypt


- Young people of Egypt reported to be mostly secular / Fox News can go to hell smile
- Obama calling for peaceful transition / but didn’t ask Mubarak to go immediately
- Divide between rich and poor reported by CNN has come to extremes over the last 10 years
- Protests in America calls for the end of U.S. foreign policy which supports dictatorships
- Arab communities in U.S. call for the Obama administration to take harder stance
- Al Jazeera criticizes American media for supporting Israel / focusing on Fox News

As of 12:15 AM EST Feb 6, 2011:
info from http://english.aljazeera.net/watch_now/ ,
http://www.democracynow.org/tags/egypt, Wikipedia and Human Rights Watch


- Narus Deep Packet Inspection software used to geolocate and track down twitter users and bloggers
- Narus software tracks internet activity / would not respond of Al Jazeera’s questions
- The leadership of Egypt’s ruling National Democratic Party resigns, including Gamal Mubarak, the son of Hosni Mubarak.
- Al Jazeera getting financial facts from corrupt International Monetary Fund and World Bank / Be cautious of any information coming from these institutions
- Gas line explodes leading to Jordan and Israel / Speculation is that Mubarak’s government is responsible
- Muslim Brotherhood talking with government
- Wikipedia: U.S. White House counterterrorism chief Juan Zarate, who says “The Muslim Brotherhood is a group that worries us not because it deals with philosophical or ideological ideas but because it defends the use of violence against civilians
- Wikipedia: On the issue of women and gender the Muslim Brotherhood interprets Islam conservatively. Its founder called for “a campaign against ostentation in dress and loose behavior,” “segregation of male and female students,” a separate curriculum for girls, and “the prohibition of dancing and other such pastimes…”
- Al Jazeera reporting that the U.S. wants “orderly” transfer of power instead of previous demands for “immediate” transfer of power.
- Demonstrators say they will not leave until Mubarak leaves office
- HRW: authorities on February 4, 2011, released researchers from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International and two foreign journalists, but should immediately free Egyptian colleagues who are still detained
- More demos planned for today / 13th day / barricades are still up in liberation square / military presence has decreased

As of 11:00 AM EST Feb 6, 2011:
info from http://english.aljazeera.net/watch_now/ and http://www.democracynow.org/tags/egypt


- Noam Chomsky discusses U.S. Military Industry Complex on Democracy Now, Feb 2 / Also talks about Egyptian revolution
- Army seen as the leading force for change in Egypt
- Pro-Democracy demonstrations are still ongoing in cities across Egypt
- Army vows that it will not take action against demonstrations
- “Vice president” Suleiman held talks with opposition leaders
- Al Jazeera reporting it is mostly a “secular movement”
- Egypt banks reopen for business

As of 10:30 PM EST Feb 8, 2011:
info from http://english.aljazeera.net/watch_now/

- Crowds Gather in front of Parliament Building
- New protesters joining the revolution
- People Camping out in Liberation Square increase
- Demonstrators say they will not leave until Mubarak steps down
- Tuesdays demonstrations have been described as largest yet
- Wael Ghonim, Google marketing executive, who put up Facebook page released form jail
- sit-down at the Parliament building to increase on Wednesday

As of 5:20 AM EST Feb 9, 2011:
info from http://english.aljazeera.net/watch_now/

- Three independent unions support today’s rally
- Trade unions included in protests
- 1 Million march called for Friday
- 20% of Egyptians have internet access
- 15% percent raise will take effect in April, and not enough, and unions think prices will increase elsewhere to make up for pay raise
- steel and coal workers among strikers / calling for their own independent unions separate from government.
- 16th day of pro-democracy demonstrations

As of 11:20 AM EST Feb 11, 2011:
info from http://english.aljazeera.net/watch_now/

- Mubarak Resigns!
- Crowds gather at state television building demanding it be shut down
- Protesters gather in Liberation Square and presidential palace
- Mubarak left Cairo for resort in Sharm El Sheikh
- Again, wealthy, poor, secular, religious, people from all walks of life involved in protest

As of 11:35 AM EST Feb 12, 2011:
info from http://english.aljazeera.net/watch_now/

- Egypt’s military promises to handover power to chosen “leader”
- However military also promises to help with transition of country to a democracy
- Ministers of Mubarak’s regime remain in office despite his departure
- Young people cleaning up and getting ready for a new Egypt

As of 8:00 AM EST Feb 16, 2011:
info from english.aljazeera.net/watch_now: Empire

- What kind of “leadership” will come to Egypt?
- Young people in charge of Egypt?
- Stability in Egypt will come from which group?
- How much power will the U.S. have in the Middle East?
- U.S. and other countries will have little say in what happens in Egypt in the upcoming months
- Egypt youth does not trust Muslim Brotherhood, their “vice president” or Islamic movements to institute democracy
- “Washington will be considered “extremist” if it continues supporting dictators”

Kris Notaro, a former IEET intern, served as the IEET's Managing Director from 2012 through 2015. He is currently an IEET Program Director. He earned his BS in Philosophy from Charter Oak State College in Connecticut. He is currently the Bertrand Russell Society’s Vice-President for Website Technology. He has worked with the Bertrand Russell A/V Project at Central Connecticut State University, producing multimedia materials related to philosophy and ethics for classroom use. His major passions are in the technological advances in the areas of neuroscience, consciousness, brain, and mind.



COMMENTS

Re [We] will need to take seriously the use of “shadow networks”, networks that smart phones allow. What that means is phone connected to phone, connected to phone via Bluetooth and the like, which any government cannot shut down.

Right. We cannot rely on the good will of governments, they will always do whatever they can to unplug the Internet and mobile communications to stay in power. We need robust and resilient systems that cannot be unplugged. This is an interesting example of mesh network for mobile phones:
http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/serval-network-mobile-phones-software/2011/01/26

As of Jan 29, 2011 6:53 AM EST time:
-95 dead.
-Cell phone towers turned back on.
-10s of thousands defying curfew and protesting on the streets.
-Internet is still down.
-Police not to be found around city
-People still demanding Mubarak completely step down
http://english.aljazeera.net/watch_now/

Egalitarianism is coming to the world.

I never thought I would see that level of reverse engineered Demon-o- cracy shut down by a president, it seems the great Windsor of the Oracle has it backwards for some reoccurring primary problem, such as the United States needs to shut down digital wireless telephone networks across the entire country and then the CIA RMS psychic visual demon-o-cracy of Mutually Assured Distruction through Artificial Intelligence and National Clandestine Service can’t conspire and instill anymore global terrorism and domestic mass murder/suicide anymore. it’s all Gerent famacide.

Is this like the fall of the Berlin wall? Does this, combined with the unrest elsewhere in the Islamic world (e.g. Yemen, Tunisia, Jordan), mark the start of a post-governmental or nacent nodal form of governance (granting that the nature of Shari’a is already largely localized)?
Does anyone know what the reaction is in Russia and/or China?
Is there any sectarian violence going along with the anti-governement protests?

Fascinating piece and situation. Thank you for the information. So far this crude measure does appear to be accomplishing little for the government. I hope it turns out well.

Thanks Kris - can you keep us updated about the actions of the Muslim Brotherhood?  I just wonder who will be in charge if Mubarak goes

Question in the back of every mind familiar with the region is:
will the coming goverment in Egypt be hostile to Israel? and will it eventually be part of an attack on Israel?
It might not be too early to start thinking about such an attack; you can be sure our government is thinking about all the angles right now—they go over & over all the possibilities.

Here is encouraging homily from the American Spectator site:
“So what should the United States do? Simple: work closely with the Egyptian military to help promote a peaceful transition to a more democratic form of government there.
Indeed, the last thing the United States should do is abandon Egypt in the same way that President Carter abandoned Iran in 1979. Carter’s abandonment of Iran led to the Islamist takeover there, which is something we don’t want to see happen, obviously, in Egypt.
The chances of an Islamist takeover in Egypt are very slim to begin with; but in a revolutionary situation, of course, anything is possible.”

DUH!

Sorry, but I’m sceptical that anywhere in the Islamic world is ever going to truly get freedom. Western thought is that the people should rule(yes, I know but even with the half-baked democracies we have we’re still a lot freer than the Islamic world will ever be) and Islamic belief dictates that a man (yes, men only) who has a hotline to God (again man only) can rule (one man, one vote as in only that man). People try to ignore this but it is a contradiction that won’t go away. If you truly believe (or are brainwashed into believing) that God should rule directly on Earth then eventually someone who can present himself as the representative of God on Earth will win out.

I fear the Egyptians will overthrow one tyrant and then, quite willingly substitute another and twenty years from now Egypt will be no better off. But I guess I can always hope I’m wrong.

“yes, I know but even with the half-baked democracies we have we’re still a lot freer than the Islamic world will ever be.”

If you mean freedom by Western lights, then you are correct.  However there is no genuine consensus on what is liberty, and what is licentiousness. What is the never-ending culture war in America about?: who gets to do what. Do we allow God-fearing carnivorous hetero nationalists to do what they want? Or do we allow atheist vegan homosexual internationalists to do what they want? it’s them militants wearin’ bellbottoms, Paul: first they took prayer out of the schools in Woodstock, now they’re sendin’ them Obama death panels after us.
The West is better for you and I, yet believe it or not some immigrants wind up returning to where they came from because certain things are worse in the West than in the East; however there is no reason to do a laundry list at IEET on what is wrong with the West—it doesn’t go anywhere. Someone such as Marshall Barnes will come back with enough pro-nationalist argument to make us listen to the EIB.

1. Paul, that is negative thinking about a people who may select Nobel laureate Mohamed El Baradei as their next president.

2. It is being reported that the last internet connection has been shut off as of Feb 1, 2011.

http://krisnotaro.com/ieet/egypt3.png

Postfuturist: yes, some people go back. I remember the two guys who returned to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in spite of the risk (they lost, rather horribly).

From what I hear, those that do return complain about the loneliness and coldness of life in the west - it is in general, at the moment, a pretty individualistic culture (and I’m the first to say that we have lost something along with the gains). I speculate that might the main reason they return and if so, I do sympathise.

Kris, you’re right, my attitude is not too positive. But there’s no evidence the Middle East is going to democratise at least for long. I could give you a lot of reasons for why I think that. but just let me give you a quirky but telling little anecdote that the Arabs tell about themselves that I heard from my time in Saudi Arabia (admittedly not Egypt).

I can’t remember all the details but the gist of the story is that there is something valuable at the top of the trees. The Japanese group act very communally and organised and before you know it they’ve got it. Another group let’s say the Americans are more individualistic but with that can-do attitude they keep telling us about(it’s an old story!) they at least work hard and don’t get in each others way and also succeed. The Arabs (and remember this is an Arab joke not mine) start feuding among each other, saw the branches off when others are climbing. pull each other down as each faction or tribe tries to get the treasure for itself and well, you get the picture.

It’s hard not to notice that while many of the Asian societies have made and are making significant progress Arab society seems stuck in the mire. And many of the places taken over by Islam were centres of ancient learning. Is it just a coincidence they eventually stagnated once Islam really took hold?

Look, I’ll be the first to cheer if Mr El Baradei and his friends change everything (the Middle East needs it so badly). But the odds are either he will end up as the next dictator or he will be turfed out (assuming he isn’t assassinated) and some other vicious bunch with a stongman at their head will carry on business as usual (and as long as they can claim Islamic legitimacy they’ll be accepted even if things are bad) and nothing will really change. Egypt is a bit different, I know and I’ve heard the Muslim Brotherhood are different but well, all we can do is wait and see.

Nobel prizes (which incidentally are in very short supply in the Muslim world compared to the Jews and other assorted infidels) aren’t going to impress the thugs in waiting. As I say, I hope this time it’s going to be different.

Main thing is to keep the bloodletting in Egypt from spreading to the rest of the region, which is what the Obama administration is attempting to do. The Mideast is a very complicated region, a polite way of saying it is a giant Gordian knot. Despite what jingoists say (and you can hear it at all hours of the day on hate radio if you have the stomach for it) the West IS culpable to some degree, and since the Glenn Becks of America and the rest of the West wont admit such, the culpability continues. You don’t need a list of dirty laundry at IEET, so here is one example: during WWII the Mideast (and naturally that was before Israel existed) was bombarded by propaganda from both the Axis and the Allies.
One more example, relevant for Now, is that the West perceives the Mideast as the region where it obtains much of its petroleum, and the residents of the the region are seen mostly as beings who happen to exist in & around oilfields—however the residents see themselves differently. Sure, you wouldn’t live in the Mideast, and neither would I, not with conditions as they are; but Arabs & Shiites see it differently, as we see the West far differently than Arabs & Shiites do. That’s all obvious. What isn’t obvious is why exactly a Glenn Beck or a Rush Limbaugh wont admit not only the subjective perceptions of both ‘sides’, but also the West’s culpability, that is TODAY’s culpability: the West to this very day does not care about the residents of the Mideast much; it cares more about the deposits of petroleum. And our opponents know that the West doesn’t care—so it is a mutual neglect.
To say the least.

... Not that you are wrong, Paul, you haven’t written anything incorrect above.
What is aggravating about America today is how you can’t even communicate; for instance if you call up most talk show hosts on hate radio (reaching millions) they’ll rip into you at the slightest opportunity, for no apparent reason. Republicans will evade the issues without letup—they are headstrong even if it means their own interests are threatened by their intransigence.

YOUR COMMENT Login or Register to post a comment.

Next entry: Methuselah in the Machine

Previous entry: Geopolitics in the 21st Century