The government of Egypt has blocked almost all Internet and mobile phone access, and, probably, every other form of communication as well. The government wants to prevent its citizens from protesting and demanding the president to resign.

I wish the people of Egypt well. When the blocks are taken down, I hope the people report that the country is peaceful and that they have finally gotten some freedom.

The government of Egypt claims to be democratic, but what they are doing should not be possible in a democracy. The fundamental aspect of a democracy is that every citizen should have the right to vote, but it is not the only necessary right for a democracy. Making your concerns heard to the government, and to other people, is also a fundamental right. As is hearing what other people have to say.

Riots and violence are not acceptable ways to protest. Cutting everyone off is not going to prevent that, however, and it greatly harms any chance of peaceful resolution. But that's hard to see, when you're effectively a dictator, sitting at the top of a high tower, looking down at the common people.

If the government is actively, and violently, hostile towards its people, the people have three choices: they can submit and accept the situation and continue suffering; they can oppose peacefully; or they can oppose violently. It requires great wisdom to oppose peacefully, and quite a lot of patience.

It's easy, from my northern European point of view, to look at Egypt from afar, and think lofty thoughts. We here in the cold are not safe from such oppression, however.

Evil people in the US have already tried to give the US president similar powers months ago. They're trying again.

It is only a matter of time until this will be proposed in the EU, too, if it hasn't been already.

In a crisis, people need timely access to reliable information, otherwise the crisis gets made worse by rumors and people making bad decisions based on bad data. Switching off communications is never the right solution, from the people's point of view. Those in power obviously think differently.

See also: Information on how to bypass some of the blocks in Egypt.

Egyptians are able to communicate through some channels (don't know how yet)… but we see news coming up from Egypt and the events are very well covered by some TV channels like Al Jazeera (and I heard also CNN? can't check right now…). I think that one the main motivations of cutting down communications is to not let them organize new protests easily, across the country, making hard to organize things. Today's protests were announced a few days ago… and clearly, their gov don't want them to communicate new dates Also about communications, it seems that landline phones are still working, and internet is "working" (for some definition) of working on Noor's network. Besides, rumors are also communicated on internet where information is never 100% reliable. So, I don't think that this will make things worse on that side.

Comment by Mehdi Fri Jan 28 20:31:03 2011

Mehdi, good points, though I disagree on the rumors. If you cut off communications, people will only have rumors, and no access to real information. And that only makes the chaos of a crisis worse.

I've twice had an employer go bankrupt. The first time, the CEO kept pushing updates on us, and there were fairly few rumors. The second time, the CEO was mostly silent, and there were an order of magnitude more rumors, despite the second company being half the size of the first. The way to stop a rumor mill is to throw facts on it.

It's true that there's a lot of misinformation on the Internet, but if you block the net, the real information won't be accessible either.

In the Egyptian case, I quite agree that the reason they blocked it was to prevent people from organizing protests. No government has the right to prevent people from protesting peacefully, and attempts to do so prove a government to be an enemy of its citizens.

Comment by Lars Wirzenius Fri Jan 28 20:58:52 2011

Yesterday's keynote at LCA was very much about this topic:

Mark Pesce was making the point that we do not have a Free Internet; it can be turned out by a few large players and by the government. We need to work on building resilient applications to replace the hierarchical services we rely on.

Comment by fmarier Fri Jan 28 21:20:24 2011
I said so about the rumors because I was following Tunisian's events on the internet (and other medias) and I've seen a lot of rumors on twitter/facebook/… there were also communicated by some well known TV channels, and then (sometimes) denied. About informations and analyses, we should not forget that people do have access to TV satellites so they are able to see how things are covered and described to the world.
Comment by Mehdi Fri Jan 28 21:38:08 2011

Quote : Evil people in the US have already tried to give the US president similar powers months ago. They're trying again.

Not forgetting Microsoft with Intel on "Trusted Platform" and recently Hollywood with Intel on the DRM like features in Sandy Bridge.

Comment by Cae Sat Jan 29 02:01:00 2011
fmarier, that "Smoke Signals" link you gave... it's awesome! Thanks for pointing it out.
Comment by Lars Wirzenius Sat Jan 29 14:00:39 2011

Someone pointed this out to me on IRC:

Might be useful.

Comment by Lars Wirzenius Sat Jan 29 14:04:49 2011

Your statement, from your "northern European" comfort, while people are facing torture and murder as they attempt to win their freedom is what is unacceptable.

Violence from the people in the face of worse violence from the government is acceptable if it is the only means available.

Comment by john Mon Jan 31 10:54:08 2011

John, I freely admit I am highly privileged. However, that does not mean I need to condone riots and violence as a form of protest. Which is what I was addressing.

Violence in defence of oneself or another, against an aggressor already using violence, is an entirely matter. I have nothing against that.

I don't ask you to like that, either, but if you're going to find me unacceptable, I'd like to to be for what I actually say and mean, rather than a misunderstanding.

Comment by Lars Wirzenius Mon Jan 31 21:35:51 2011

So, in 1939-1945 the actions of the various resistance movements were unacceptable?

Maybe you will say "no, that was self defense, not protest".

Are not the current actions of the Egyptian people self defense? They have a "government" which tortures and murders people for expressing political opinions. Are the people not allowed to respond to this with violence? (For example, the new vice president, former head of the secret police, is reported to have ordered a prisoner beaten to death in his presence just to force another prisoner to crack).

It's easy to condemn violence. But why say "riots and violence are unacceptable as protest" rather than "murder and torture are unacceptable responses to legitimate protest". You may say "why should I say that, it's obvious", but it isn't, for years the west have accepted the violent behavior of the Egyptian government (to the extent of training and arming the police). Now, when the people rise up voices cry out "violence is unacceptable protest".

It just seems strangely one sided.

Comment by john Tue Feb 1 08:46:48 2011

John, you may think that violence is the proper solution, but I do not. Some amount of defensive violence is sometimes necessary. Some is probably necessary in Egypt right now.

However, I was talking about riots, violent riots, not self defence. When Mubarak has people killed, breaking shop windows and burning cars is not going to improve the situation.

That, however, was not the main point I was making. It is, in fact, entirely beside the main point. The main point was to condemn the actions of the Egyptian government and warn that some of what they do is about to become possible in the US and the EU as well.

I do not appreciate your insinuation that I in any way condone what Mubarak has done to Egypt. So let me be entirely clear: I think Mubarak is a dictator, and should be removed from power, and tried in a court of law. I futher think that this should happen with minimal violence. Expressing that hope does not make me a bad person.

I do not have the time to even try to condemn each evil deed individually. I prefer to allocate my time to saving the world by developing free software.

Comment by Lars Wirzenius Tue Feb 1 13:27:26 2011