Protestors in Egypt are experiencing trouble accessing both Facebook and Twitter, according to widespread reports.
As is often the case, it is proving complex to determine whether the social networking sites have been definitively blocked and who is ultimately behind the block. According to Herdict Web, a site that aggregates reports of inaccessible websites, Facebook was reported inaccessible nine times on Wednesday and Twitter was reported inaccessible 49 times in the past two days.
@twitterglobalpr, a new Twitter communications channel created Tuesday, confirmed yesterday that the site was indeed being blocked.
On the other hand, a spokesperson for the Egyptian government aggressively denied blocking either of the social sites, saying they respect freedom of expression. Vodafone, a major telecom company in the Middle Eastern country, also denies blocking Twitter, but acknowledges there is definitely “a problem all over Egypt.”
The statements from the Egyptian government and Vodafone appear to be supported by Facebook.
"Having looked into it, we are aware of reports of disruption to service but have not seen any major changes in traffic from Egypt," said a London spokeswoman for Facebook.
Begun on January 25, the protests in Egypt were inspired not just by a similar uprising in Tunisia but also by complaints over police brutality, unemployment, lack of freedom of speech and the poor state of living conditions. So far, tens of thousands of Egyptians have taken to the streets, but the interior ministry has declared that public gatherings will no longer be tolerated. About 700 people have already been arrested throughout the country.
The Egyptian government is headed by President Hosni Mubarak, who has held his position since President Anwar El-Sadat was assassinated in 1981.
“I want to see an end to this dictatorship, 30 years of Mubarak is enough - we've had enough of the state of emergency, prices are going up and up,” said one protester.
It comes as little surprise to anybody, but once again, two of the most popular social networking sites in the world are proving their true value as one-of-a-kind communication tools able to connect a large number of people instantly. We are necessarily reminded of the 2009 protests in Iran, when Twitter was also blocked. We will be following this story closely. Here's just one of many on-the-ground videos that will likely surface in the coming days: