Now protesters all across Egypt must find a way to organize without the Web and, in Cairo, with an elite special operations force deployed to put a stop to massive demonstrations that have rippled across the state, ignited by a revolt in Tunisia that successfully toppled the regime there.
Both were drastic measures taken as preemptive steps by the Egyptian government ahead of possibly the largest demonstrations yet, which Reuters says are planned for Friday after weekly prayers.
But neither the people taking to the streets in Tunisia nor those in Iran during the summer of 2009 ever had to face a complete blackout of the Internet, a highly strategic attack on Egyptians’ freedom of speech undoubtedly ordered into effect by the Egyptian government.
"It's probably a phone call that goes out to half a dozen folks who enter a line on a router configuration file and hit return," said Craig Labovitz, chief scientist for Arbor Networks the security company responsible for the graph above. "It's like programming your TiVo — you have things that are set up and you delete one. It's not high-level programming."
The decision to bar all online access was also likely spurred on by a nonstop flow of protest footage to sites like YouTube, disseminated through social networks, displaying the deteriorating situation on the ground. Additionally, there are reports that possibly dozens have been killed along with at least 100 injured in Cairo alone.
One of the more gruesome videos, first made available by AP, shows a protester getting shot, followed by short scenes from around the country:
More videos of the protests are available here.
Because the U.S. government still considers Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak a crucial Middle Eastern ally, response from the Obama administration has been safely cautious about saying too much but still sharply critical of Egypt’s move to censor modes of communication.
Soon after it was discovered that both Facebook and Twitter had been made inaccessible to Egyptians, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged the Egyptian government not to dismantle access to the social networking sites.
Then U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Philip Crowley sent out a tweet late Thursday evening legitimizing fears that the Egyptian government had actually gone so far as to block the entire Web.
President Barack Obama’s reaction to the matter, however, was filmed in a YouTube interview hours before this was known, so he only reacts to news that social media sites had been stifled:
And I think that it is very important that people have mechanisms in order to express legitimate grievances. As I said in my State of the Union speech, there are certain core values that we believe in as Americans that we believe are universal: freedom of speech, freedom of expression, people being able to use social networking or any other mechanisms to communicate with each other and express their concerns. And that is no less true in the Arab world than it is here in the United States.
Full video below: