January 27, 2011, 2:43 PM — The Egyptian governments move to shut down access to Twitter in the country indicates how powerful social media can be as a protest tool. By Jaikumar Vijayan The Egyptian government's decision to shut down access to Twitter appears to be an acknowledgement of just how potent social media tools can be amid the widening civilian unrest.
In a brief message earlier this week, Twitter announced that Egypt had blocked access to its site from inside the country soon after the start of large scale protests against President Hosni Mubarak.
Swedish video streaming service Bambuser, said that its service too had been similarly blocked inside Egypt in what it claimed was an attempt by the government to control the news agenda in the face of mass demonstrations.
A story in The Local , an English language newspaper in Sweden quoted Bambuser's CEO as saying that about 10,000 videos from the country were posted on Bambuser during last year's general elections in Egypt.
On Wednesday, Herdict , a Web accessibility-monitoring project run by Harvard University s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, said there were several reports of Facebook being inaccessible from inside Egypt as well.
The blocking of such sites appears to be driven by concerns about them being used by citizens to rally more opposition against the government and to circumvent its attempts to control the news.
In 2009, for instance, Twitter emerged as an important communications tool during a harsh government crackdown in Iran, following disputed elections in the country. When authorities in Iran shut down various communication mediums, including phone lines, Facebook ,YouTube videos and text messaging systems, thousands of Iranians began using Twitter to communicate with each other and the rest of the world.
The unrest in Iran showed for the first time how Twitter could also be used to quickly mobilize a volunteer cyber-army to launch denial of service attacks against key government and commercial targets.