Reporters' Roundtable: Egypt, the Net, and revolution

Egypt has disconnected its population from the Internet and mobile phone services. What does this mean for future political movements and for the Internet overall? And could it happen here? Guests Declan McCullagh and Deborah Wheeler discuss.

On January 27, the Egyptian government sought to combat growing public unrest by disconnecting the Internet and mobile phone services--the thinking being that protesters couldn't organize if they couldn't communicate. Ignoring for the moment the fact that there have been protests since long before the Net, this is still a significant and historical action. Previously, Iran and Tunisia have sought to quell protests with similar policies and actions, but the Egyptian example is perhaps the largest and most heavy-handed communications shut-down the modern world has seen.

Our guests for today's discussion are Declan McCullagh, our own political reporter; and Deborah Wheeler, a political science professor who spent the last 10 years in the Middle East studying how social technologies impact politics. Author of The Internet in the Middle East, she teaches as visiting professor at the American University of Kuwait. She is also a professor at one of the U.S. service academies, but the views expressed here are her own.

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Some of our discussion points

What's happening in Egypt now? What is the protest for?

Deborah Wheeler, you said you were expecting this to happen eventually. Why?

Declan McCullagh, what precisely did the Egyptian government do? How do you shut down the Net?

When will they turn the Net back on, and how?

Compare this action to China's softer "great firewall" in terms of effectiveness.

Let's look at what happened recently in Iran and Tunisia. How do these upsets compare, and what did Egypt learn from them?

Could it happen here? Discuss the "Internet Kill switch" proposal.

 

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