Internet disruptions hit Egypt

It's unclear how widespread the service disruptions are and what is causing them.

CNN Cairo Correspondent Ben Wedeman reports of the outage first-hand on Twitter.
CNN Cairo Correspondent Ben Wedeman reports of the outage first-hand on Twitter. http://twitter.com/#!/bencnn

Amid a third day of anti-government protests, Internet outages and disruptions occurred today in Egypt.

Facebook and Twitter confirmed the disruptions for their sites.

"We are aware of reports of disruption to service and have seen a drop in traffic from Egypt this morning," a Facebook spokesman said in a statement. "You may want to visit Herdict.org, a project of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University that offers insight into what users around the world are experiencing in terms of web accessibility."

According to Herdict.org, there were 459 inaccessible sites in Egypt and 621 accessible sites.

Twitter's Global PR account reported on the site that: "Egypt continues to block Twitter & has greatly diminished traffic. However, some users are using apps/proxies to successfully tweet."

Meanwhile, there were numerous outages around the Web.

Danny O'Brien, San Francisco-based Internet Advocacy Coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said to the North American Network Operators' Group (NANOG) e-mail list that the organization had lost all Internet connectivity with its contacts in Egypt and was hearing reports of loss of Internet connectivity on major broadband ISPs, SMS outage and loss of mobile service in major cities there.

"The working assumption here is that the Egyptian government has made the decision to shut down all external, and perhaps internal electronic communication as a reaction to the ongoing protests in that country," he wrote. His post included a link to a Pastebin.com page where someone at a European-based Internet activist group has started an effort to provide alternative methods--such as shortwave and pirate radio--for protesters in Egypt to communicate with each other and the outside world.

"A major service provider for Egypt, Italy-based Seabone, reported early Friday that there was no Internet traffic going into or out of the country after 12:30 a.m. local time," the Associated Press noted. "Associated Press reporters in Cairo were also experiencing outages."

The Los Angeles Times said BlackBerry users were not able to reach the Internet on their devices.

RIM provided this statement when asked for comment: "We can confirm that RIM has not implemented any changes that would impact service in Egypt and that RIM's BlackBerry Infrastructure has continued to be fully operational throughout the day. For questions regarding a specific network in Egypt, please contact the carrier who operates the network.

A Twitter post by Ben Wedeman, CNN senior correspondent in Cairo, around 3 p.m PDT says: "No internet, no SMS, what is next? Mobile phones and land lines? So much for stability."

The Arabist blog had mixed reports, with someone in Cairo saying Internet service was down while a foreign journalist was able to get onto the Internet Semiramis Intercontinental hotel.

Twitter representatives did not respond immediately to an e-mail request for more information.

The Internet disruptions spurred activist action. Anonymous, the group that launched distributed denial-of-service attacks on Web sites of financial institutions and others opposing WikiLeaks last year, released a video online in which it threatened to launch DOS attacks on Egyptian government Web sites if the authorities did not curtail censorship efforts. Earlier today , five people were arrested in the U.K. in connection with those attacks.

Because Twitter has been found to be an effective communications tool during social unrest and protests--in Iran and Moldova , along with Tunisia and Egypt , more recently--it is an attractive target for governments to try to block, along with Facebook .

(via The Huffington Post.)

Updated 6:05 p.m. PDT with NANOG report of outages.

 

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