January 2011

Only hours before major planned protests on Friday morning (28 January), the Egyptian government has shut down virtually all Internet access going in and out of Egypt, as well as SMS and Blackberry access. It seems that access to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter may have taken place as early as Tuesday.

In two cities, Suez (north of Cairo) and the northern Sinai area of Sheik Zuweid, mounting protests have been calling for President Hosni Mubarak to step down. It has already been reported that social networking websites, particularly Facebook, have been used to build support and encourage participants in rallies this week–including large ones planned for Friday morning.

By Friday morning local time, reports confirmed that Internet traffic in and out of the country had slowed to a trickle. Renesys, a specialist in analysing Internet routing data (and a self-described “authority in global Internet intelligence”) has further confirmed that very early Friday local time, virtually all routes to Egyptian networks in the Internet’s global routing table were simply withdrawn,

leaving no valid paths by which the rest of the world could continue to exchange Internet traffic with Egypt’s service providers. Virtually all of Egypt’s Internet addresses are now unreachable, worldwide.

Renesys observed that oddly, Internet infrastructure company Noor Group was unaffected by the shutdown, with inbound Internet traffic via Telecom Italia arriving as usual. It also noted that the Egyptian Stock Exchange was still online at a Noor address. Their analysis revealed that the Exchange is normally reachable at four different IP addresses:

Internet transit path diversity is a sign of good planning by the Stock Exchange IT staff, and it appears to have paid off in this case. Did the Egyptian government leave Noor standing so that the markets could open next week?

It appears that Internet traffic solely within Egypt has remained unaffected. Some reports have also said that savvy users have found ways around the Internet blocks, using proxy servers and other methods.

Update, 29 January:

Further reports of the situation in Egypt have been made, with The New York Times suggesting why the almost complete removal of the country of over 80 million people from the Internet was possible at all. Not only was the Egyptian government instrumental in encouraging the spread of the Internet throughout the country, but its relatively liberal nature gave people little reason to suspect that the Internet could or would be shut down. As a result, the handful of Internet service providers in Egypt were not ready with a workaround. Ironically, it seems, some of the people who were expressing their frustrations with the government online only may now be joining others in the continuing demonstrations.

The Australian Digital Alliance will be holding a policy forum, titled “Righting the Copyright Balance”, on 4 March 2011 in Canberra. The full-day event looks to be a very interesting one, with sessions focusing on areas where Australian copyright law is thought to be most imbalanced between the rights of creators and users of copyright works.

Topics to be covered include safe harbours, the iiNet case, general exceptions, orphan works, and introducing flexibility to the Copyright Act.

LawFont’s own Kim Weatherall will provide a summary of the day’s discussion and propose an agenda for copyright reforms for the next few years.

If you are interested in attending, the deadline to RSVP is 25 February.