Ep. 63: Egypt, the Net, and Revolution24 hours ago, Egypt 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.
Hi everyone welcome to reporters' roundtable -- -- needle in San Francisco. Today we -- a very interesting very special show. It we're going to be talking about Egypt and what's going on there are about the crackdown on the use of the Internet and SMS and mobile phones a -- expecting to see today show on the growth of new user interfaces like. Connect and multi touch that'll be on next week -- stay tuned for that one I preempted that show because I really wanna get into the breaking news it's happening right now. As as we know there is there -- protests in the streets of Egypt and in major cities -- protesting President Hosni Mubarak and his thirty year perpetual security state and stop. I don't wanna get into the politics on but it is so interesting because what happened there is Egypt shut down the Internet. I didn't know you could do that. But we have two great guests to talk about what that means what's happening in Egypt what happened to music what happened in Iran and couldn't happen here. Our guests are first our political policy report that when called who's joining us from his compound in Woodside -- and thank you for dialing in. And to -- and also. Deborah Wheeler with the specialists who spent the last ten years on the ground in the Middle -- trying to figure out how and what these new social technologies mean politically. She teaches as a visiting professor during Summers that the American university in Kuwait. And currently -- professor one of the service academies on the East Coast here in US the views expressed are her own. Deborah thank you for making the time to join us. So. I'm a tech reporter and this is -- internally a -- show so let's get a brief. Levels that political overview what is happening in Egypt right now and Beckley endeavor -- you want -- gonna give us the overview there. -- -- I'll give -- -- Andy's that it. As -- -- bitter about 22 hours or so I accidentally four hours is that uses the Internet in Egypt went -- and -- -- now and -- while there's been all that this is a remarkable remarkable situation. You've not seen before in the modern Internet I mean generally. When you see in repressive regime. Take action -- Twitter is filtered or you can't get to google.com. -- -- bespoke. Is. Temporarily restricted appointment by the entire Internet and actually it does not -- -- that there's. -- -- -- and it serves western companies like Coca-Cola and the rigorous Charleston. And that's that's still online now though probably a bit overloaded. As and so the business is now 24 hours old and were -- -- this is experiments. At it and we haven't seen before which is what happens when you out. -- country of eighty plus million people go to our. And these people are protesting the egyptians are protesting just. For level thing what precisely. Do I need to take a surge never get. Kevin -- well what we've been watching in the region there patterns of the same kinds of development happening. In many countries as -- repeating in restarting into -- and attacking Egypt happening in Yemen a little bit going on in Georgian. Announced here and Lebanon looking -- they're gonna jump in and of course 2009 here on Election Day -- really kind of brain insult to the floor but basically let you that is over the last point thirties forties and sixties had sixty years you had government city emerged that controlled all the cards politically and economically. And they shared those spoils with certain key individuals in order to build support for the -- And anybody who was left out was sort of trying to fend for themselves. And over -- -- the gap between those who have opportunities and those who don't have any has grown over time. And so the governments are less able to buy off their -- and our public's loyalty scheme and then you add social -- academics and it's really just seems like an in game that's going to be on the side the victory sent on the public. Budget to be clear this isn't just the access the Internet as -- with the complicity of the guys these but also mobile coverage -- -- -- Actually -- the technologies that we. Take for granted and that people around the world much as we'd be UF of people around the world take for granted the way to keep in touch with the family in their friends and as if that they've been cut off. Yeah -- -- yet we are still seeing coordinated. Protests. Now they're there were protests long before the Internet that we protest long after Howard people. Getting around the cut off at the moment. What we know that. Now that if there's a few things -- -- you count on this one Internet provider that provides access again to the western companies that's online and the dial up numbers to get access to that. Are being circulated -- so -- -- efficiently technically savvy. That might be a way to do -- you might help to be online -- actually see it knows about. Here's the dial a number -- while on service -- -- it looks like. Not the largest. Not -- no oil provider that's middle and it -- B Neil. And I. Is no longer providing service -- that was passed last night about twelve hours ago some of the other ones and hearing reports that still online now I was unclear and Vodafone confirmed. Missing that all mobile operators in Egypt will have been instructed to suspend service. Landline. Seemed to be up and running I'm hearing reports that this is is that that this is still. This is something that the regime has not yet it shut off a menu of war were Mal you have. Are people going to mosques and there are other -- to get the word out indicted the most efficient channels have been -- now. Not every said in pre show that you -- expecting this kind of thing to happen eventually is that. Obviously there were socio economic political reasons for. The people to. To take to the streets -- they have but you said that there were technological reasons that were accelerating this change -- -- -- tells more about that. So what -- -- to do about. In nine years ago -- just go and figure out how people on the ground were using these technologies how they were impacting their life -- at all. And whether or not the people on the ground using new technologies spot that there is going to be any political or social impact that would result from their use of the Internet and other social media. And the things that I was finding that people are saying you know this is fundamentally transforming my life I have access to information that I never thought I'd have is you without. Access to these media. And it's at my fingertips on demand. And we're using it to hybrid -- -- too. Expressed political opinions and -- And to network and find out about the world -- all of these things I've been able to Trace it happening among people who use these technologies. And if you go to Internet world that -- -- that in the Middle East. At least the last couple. The years expands access to the technology have been spreading faster than anywhere else on the planet. To just putting two and two together the more users the greatest impact. I've been anticipating that something like this might happen but I've been writing a book called information without revolution question mark. And because they kept saying it's just a matter kindness of their time and -- -- -- about your -- -- -- -- maybe there's something about this particular region it's not gonna explode the way we -- expected to. And now I have decoded the book -- information technology for regime change then and the. Well the the information -- technology can be used of course by the people as well as by people who control the pipes and I guess what we're seeing right here is -- a battle between the the -- -- points of the choke points and the people trying to rush through -- choke points. How does that battle. -- that -- effective that it affected -- and how do you actually. Shut down the Internet in a country. Well in the US. There is it's it's this -- wonderful parallel away because I just reported earlier this week about now the so called -- -- kill -- -- bill is going to be revived in the new congress by senators. Lieberman and Collins they youngster revises the proposals since the last month -- they're going to try again. I ends and so there is this is -- I suspect this is going to sit back their efforts in congress a little and yes the body. And it's actually answer your question there is now it. In that country like the US -- so -- -- thoroughly wired there there there is no -- easy way -- identical way to just all the other on the Internet but -- you -- -- a relatively small number of network providers. I didn't like ten. Then it comes -- -- relatively easy to say I am okay are you gonna send us want to security apparatchiks that. Well those are security -- to each one and say I remove yourself from the Internet and and then presto an hour later it happen. -- -- Midnight -- -- local time or around not to -- Our time yesterday and there's. It waving tech -- that actually what happened that these -- the Internet. -- the people who were young man in the late shift at the various Egyptian -- -- were stormed by black booted thugs and that turn off the power. No we don't know. This is this this is. Here purely hypothetical I'm saying that you only have ten of them easier access to contact suggests that state control of them and and say this is what you're going to do in Syria Iraq and I'm looking into reports that -- talent as it turns out that that isn't. Country's Internet. Connection has been altered edited news is though I did I discover there's a government monopoly provider that provider that is responsible for all that fixed land -- them. -- -- -- -- Ambassador grinder in there have -- a service disruptions and so -- a whole other side is it that Syria wanted to do something the government owns and Erica -- which is easy to -- No one think you said earlier was that this was. Fundamentally different from cutting the fiber connection with tobacco he said there was -- the fundamental obvious technological difference. Early on that it wasn't just somebody pulling the plug it was. -- is -- -- from about twenty firms -- that Egypt has removed itself from the Internet. Right and we did this isn't a fiber -- because what happened is it that. The network providers broadcasts to the rest of the world hey this is a range of IP addresses that were responsible or will take incoming connections. Or that this is that the board game where you are our PGE. At a -- -- it -- is the lingua Franca. Our routers on the Internet and so what happened is that with the exception of that one Internet service provider he spent western firms -- the war. IISPs. And -- network providers. Yesterday about 24 hours ago started. I'm taking down their BG EU routes as saying hey you don't -- to these addresses we no longer serves more should not and -- -- that is that is does is it to be different from a router number -- -- -- because that means that these -- degree programs. I -- -- that the BB CE what -- Oracle -- the announcement some overturned on our so. It sounds then that when and if the Egyptian government or whoever controls the Egyptian government decides to turn the Internet back on for the people. That it will be simply a matter restoring those BGP tables though. Technologically want to talk about how you turn this back on and then. Beckman and after that ever want talk about socially and it comes so -- first how to make. Read re -- the net. They make me get permission and then. That's our publishing. -- tables again ray it's a -- -- I this is the and so my knowledge -- I don't know how to propagate. I do know that that mirror BE announcement that will propagate more I'm more quickly so I suspect that is that everything could happen within an hour could light up again. Within. Twelve hours or so I mean human. Exactly the first -- this is half. And during -- -- during -- state of emergency all the -- And there have been none reports of Bangladesh and the target satellite providers years ago and permit is not Egypt and I've been -- -- this is a country without lights present access. I Egypt is -- around. It ever will -- -- socially politically. How do you bring this population back online without more violence. Well I mean I think that's a million dollars the billion dollar question. Really let your talking about is can -- contained. The energy the crowds the networks can't we put the genie back in the bottle. And I just don't see how it's possible. Came after -- that's I mean look at Iran. I'm sitting in Kuwait 2009. Summer. Watching this country explode with sixteen million people in the streets and protesting the elections and yet. True course of response from the regime in. Armed forces and then cutting down in censoring the technology they were able to turn things back and that protesters never got there. Reissue of an election and the same -- -- power so. Will. -- stepped down it's basically where where it says it's. Are you saying that if the Egyptian government had taken a somewhat different. Tactic in containing the protest the way that Iran -- might be in things might be going more their way. I think that the Iranians and the egyptians are trying to -- message. And it worked in Iran. And that thing we're all waiting to see is will it work can change its work meaning -- maintain the status quo. And one of the things that people have said is that in Iran and this was a middle class and urban intellectual. Protest. Whereas right now what we're intimately observed in Tunisia what we're observing in Egypt is that this is a very widespread. You know collective demand for change and and so I think that's. I had to wager -- -- And expecting that the potential cracks in the system delivered by the Egyptian protest. Have the chance of looking more like Tunisia. And they have -- looking more like Iran. But let's talk about -- that's the most recent in this state most recent event in the state of Internet. People revolution issues what happened there and and what lessons do you think that Egypt has learned from -- -- Asian influence. Well you see over time aim and the president of Tunisia I was able to come into this state where he controls. 50%. Of every single company in Tunisia. -- -- -- Your payment and so that he controlled most of the economy brand name really repressive regime. And through one dying. Writing himself on fire in city -- the anxiety. Started this revolution. And so essentially the president had to say it like in -- day and -- and her predecessor Mike going to leave and I. I would love to sit down and and find out why he laughed -- but what made his situation different. And then the bar looks -- -- for example. What effect does the world of Internet users of people who are on FaceBook on Twitter between what's happening there. The in the broadcast Al-Jazeera that is putting up the light streaming from street. What effect does that have. On the people who are in Egypt. Doing these protests -- even know what the rest of the world is doing. Oh yes I mean the interviews that I've done with Internet cafe users and and that interviews that my students in Kuwait did about Kuwaiti Internet users. And these people are spending on average in Kuwait -- -- people spending 4060 hours a week. Online or sometimes as much a hundred hours a week online. It's just 20% -- always there with them and they're. Watch YouTube videos in there that. That FaceBook networks galore and there are -- chatting in arguing online and they are watching the news from -- -- different sources and ordering. You know e-commerce based things that there are so dialed in. This whole idea that somehow these -- don't really know its kind in the world I think is just the thing of the past. Now briefly I wanna talk about the way that China deals with information flow and that's -- much more subtle. From what I understand more. In some ways a very effective way of controlling information flow it's not a black and white or when that's not right that that the Chinese the great firewall that is in manned by people who. Slightly make things more difficult over time when you start to break the rules that correct. That's right it's different in two ways since more Graham less predictable and mean if you happen and and you do. Agents of that the Chinese security establishment who might just -- I'm not -- year old. -- -- were eight to monitor these things to give these these agents I'm. I'll snooping around chat programs you don't know whether you're going to get in trouble -- -- is going to be deleted and so these are two -- -- long going to say and -- caution if I did this is self censorship another thing is that. The -- games today Google has a nice tool that lets you see what services are her down. And there is there and always. The -- and sometimes you can get to a service like in Gmail are. I used to down or any spoken some anti spam and so it's it's it seems to be a bit worse off a little bit more calculated. And a into the -- the difference. Okay -- finally went on -- talk about is the obvious question can this happen here we've been talking -- you mentioned briefly the idea of the quote. And quote Internet kill switch what is that what's going on there and should we be I don't wanna put on my little you know. Paranoia hack here but. Should we be concerned here in the United States that our access to free information -- write to peaceably assemble online could be impacted. Easier chat channeling Alice Jones. That are so -- -- I have not listen to them those are my words out of my own brain thank you very much. They exactly and endeavor -- it. There's them. Means it technically speaking -- this is. It's it's way different. I ended up going back today -- tells -- that actually was. Proposal. I'm by senator Rockefeller CNET because there was a press reported that actually use that phrase from memory disconnect. Internet systems. And so now Lieberman now that it is coming back he's more -- to criticism he's now saying well. -- going to allow president to do emergency stuff. He's not actually using that the term the disconnect. There is out and -- and what's been up missing now. And now -- network providers Internet companies that could apply to -- -- -- quite -- Gmail or Microsoft or Yahoo!. And there's no judicial review that is whatever ths the president much quicker so auditor -- emergency they can get away -- you include -- say whoa this is censoring them now or is redundant. Aren't going after First Amendment protected activities and so that that that's where the concern -- it's not writing in the streets as much as. Well we -- we've had some national emergencies and lasted decades that export controls from the -- Powell are what what happens when you have the ongoing -- emergency. In the US that's under to a different president and access to the politics endeavor should respond back. Can afford but never before you get on they're now one of the things that that Google has come out said is that what's happening in Egypt is evil. Would Google say the same thing were there to be eight Internet emergency whether it be it a Homeland Security. Threat from outside or inside. And they were asked to disconnect certain services do you think Google would stand -- wrong. And there is. I just say I mean that the first principle of running an Internet company incident with operations in multiple jurisdictions is not to your employees arrested. And so you this this this is this is -- a very important principles. It if it detects start rolling and down into the -- Parkway and -- and -- that I think I'm that is that's a very proceedings are gonna happen but in in reality. I this is a company that that now. Who like it like FaceBook and the and Yahoo! -- last year to different lawsuits -- -- asked about it to the US government they've them that if they are the DOJ in order. -- also -- think that this is that lastly disclosure. A government little extra legal pressures them and also click -- site as long as the legislation allows and thank you Joe Lieberman. -- -- Yeah I think that really what's going on here is that you know watching the damage that's documented. And what happens if we get into a situation where are critical information infrastructure is under attack that's not regulated so the attack is to -- these -- Information from its. Most of other Internet Internet infrastructures owned by the private sector. And so perhaps what we're what we're seeing is that. Those bits the -- infrastructure that link with our critical information infrastructure. Meaning there's -- designing switched so that the president got international emergency could shut down those pieces of the Internet did maintain and support our critical information infrastructures things like. Its nuclear power plants. Railway line. Banking and financial. But it's still scary. At the -- idea that one man -- -- someday could pull -- plug. On all communication I think that's what has a solid and have a bind. That even. A somebody in our and our government we even tried such a thing I think is the real terror the real scary thing here because I think technically -- what you're saying is that it's much harder than that looks. And so on and this is not like element of grasping for an analogy and connect with horizontally to treat factory at -- you have the machine that makes treason and you can just little. The machine and then the -- treaties it's Mali artists agree that complex ecosystem of imovie arts and instances that just as easy as toppling the sweat shop but here's -- interesting -- -- to. Remember not vetted it department -- is actually -- this is the Obama administration's all happy. -- Lieberman's legislation and the reason is they can be ready out of the authority this is my article and on Monday -- I think yes I cited in the current law that goes back to the federal communications act of 1930 -- the -- to the FCC and it says. -- and a state of war or other national emergency Abbott president and -- seized control. A networks and it's I'm it's really talking about radio stations but if you read this probably I it would seem to -- taking neutral nature and the slot has been around almost a hundred years so there you have doubts Jones. That's a perfect -- that is going to be -- for the show lets you guys have any final words on what we can expect to happen next in Egypt -- the rest of the world when it comes to. Government control of social and information technologies and final words. Current programs and -- can. We'll be back then we'll do the show again. Listen if you want find out more information about what's going on in Egypt and -- it is affecting the Internet and people's access to read a news.com -- McCulloch and Elinor mills are doing continuing continual stories on that it's very fascinating stuff -- -- to -- WW dot news.com. Deborah Wheeler is I political science professor thank you very much for joining us you have books out the people can read about this topic. -- -- from about a couple years back and content. Internet in the Middle East global expectations local imagination but I think you're going to have to revise it. And -- new and coming out soon hopefully. All right deck when -- Deborah thank you so much for joining us. We will be back next week. The next week's show will be the -- was originally scheduled for this week which is on new user interfaces and what they mean for the future technology we're talking of course about multi touch. Whole room interfaces machines that read your emotional state stuff like that they can and that's on next week thanks everyone thanks you for producing -- next week. -- And.