Egypt muzzles last active ISP, but workarounds continue

Google, Twitter team up to allow spoken tweets out of and into Egypt

While Egypt's embattled authoritarian regime has managed to knock off the Internet its lone hold-out ISP, protesters within the country and supporters on the outside are continuing to marshal resources in attempt to keep the flow of information moving to and from those directly involved. (Next-day update here.)

The IDG News Service reports in a story on our site:

Noor Group, a small service provider that hosted Internet connections for the country's stock exchange and other businesses, became completely unreachable at around 10:46 p.m. Cairo time (Eastern European Time), according to Earl Zmijewski, general manager with Internet monitoring company Renesys.

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Before it disappeared, Noor was the last company running data in and out of the country, Zmijewski said. Now e-mail, Web traffic and other Internet services are unable to reach any network in the country, he said.

Renesys provides more detail on its blog.

As noted here yesterday, Egyptians looking to communicated with the outside world during this political crisis have managed to do so using old-school technologies such a dial-up modems, ham radios and fax machines.

While Noor was being yanked off the grid, two of the more high-profile corporate voices in America - Google and Twitter - were taking countermeasures into their own hands. From a Google blog post yesterday headlined: "Some weekend work that will (hopefully) enable more Egyptians to be heard:"

Like many people we've been glued to the news unfolding in Egypt and thinking of what we could do to help people on the ground. Over the weekend we came up with the idea of a speak-to-tweet service-the ability for anyone to tweet using just a voice connection.

We worked with a small team of engineers from Twitter, Google and SayNow, a company we acquired last week, to make this idea a reality. It's already live and anyone can tweet by simply leaving a voicemail on one of these international phone numbers (+16504194196 or +390662207294 or +97316199855) and the service will instantly tweet the message using the hashtag #egypt. No Internet connection is required. People can listen to the messages by dialing the same phone numbers or going to twitter.com/speak2tweet.

Twitter had previously expressed its support for Egypt's protest movement - without being explicit -- in a Friday blog post entitled, "The tweets must flow:"

Our goal is to instantly connect people everywhere to what is most meaningful to them. For this to happen, freedom of expression is essential. Some Tweets may facilitate positive change in a repressed country, some make us laugh, some make us think, some downright anger a vast majority of users. We don't always agree with the things people choose to tweet, but we keep the information flowing irrespective of any view we may have about the content.

The open exchange of information can have a positive global impact. This is both a practical and ethical belief. On a practical level, we simply cannot review all one hundred million-plus Tweets created and subsequently delivered every day. From an ethical perspective, almost every country in the world agrees that freedom of expression is a human right.

Meanwhile, The Tor Project, "a network of virtual tunnels that allows people and groups to improve their privacy and security on the Internet," has teamed with Avaaz.org to raise money in an attempt to help fill the void created by Egypt's communications crackdown.

From the Avaaz.org site:

Your donation will go to providing satellite internet devices, other related equipment, to help with network access costs, and general support for Egyptians and people working with Egypt during this crisis and beyond. This fundraising drive is organized by the Tor Project. Money raised will be used by the Tor Project for work in areas where the Internet has been jacked.

As of this morning, $13,622 had been raised toward a goal of $100,000.

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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