Court: Egypt planned for Internet shutdown since 2008

The cutting of Internet and phone service during Egypt’s uprising in late January was the culmination of a long period of preparation, Al Ahram reports: "The ministries of interior, telecommunications and mass communications in association with the three [Vodafone, Mobinil and Etisalat] telecommunications companies operating in Egypt and the internet providers performed a series of ...

The cutting of Internet and phone service during Egypt's uprising in late January was the culmination of a long period of preparation, Al Ahram reports:

"The ministries of interior, telecommunications and mass communications in association with the three [Vodafone, Mobinil and Etisalat] telecommunications companies operating in Egypt and the internet providers performed a series of experiments on how to severe connections as early as April 2008," reads the verdict summary issued by an Egyptian administrative court and obtained by Ahram Online.

“The first experiment was back in April 2008 while the second one was on 10 October 2010, three months before the revolution; it sought to test cutting Egypt’s internet connection, blocking some websites and implementing procedures to prevent access to the internet in one or more governorates,” stated the verdict to the lawsuit filed in April by the Egyptian Centre for Housing Rights.

The cutting of Internet and phone service during Egypt’s uprising in late January was the culmination of a long period of preparation, Al Ahram reports:

"The ministries of interior, telecommunications and mass communications in association with the three [Vodafone, Mobinil and Etisalat] telecommunications companies operating in Egypt and the internet providers performed a series of experiments on how to severe connections as early as April 2008," reads the verdict summary issued by an Egyptian administrative court and obtained by Ahram Online.

“The first experiment was back in April 2008 while the second one was on 10 October 2010, three months before the revolution; it sought to test cutting Egypt’s internet connection, blocking some websites and implementing procedures to prevent access to the internet in one or more governorates,” stated the verdict to the lawsuit filed in April by the Egyptian Centre for Housing Rights.

This finding is going to make it quite a bit harder for Vodaphone to continue to claim that it was forced against its will to comply with government demands in January. The Egyptian court controversially declined to fine the firms, but it would also be interesting to know what other countries have prepared similar procedures with the help of global IT firms. 

It’s also interesting to note that the first shutdown experiment took place on April 6, 2008 during a textile worker’s stike in the town of Mahalla, which was also an event from which many of Egypt’s online ativists took their original inspiration, as Maryam Ishani wrote back in February — another example of online activism and high-tech censorship mechanisms evolving in tandem.   

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy Twitter: @joshuakeating

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