>The Revolution Won’t Be Twitterized

>Seeing Egypt “turn off” the internet got me wondering: how? And could it happen here?

FastCompany has the goods:

Turns out, it’s pretty easy, at least in Egypt. “At the end of the day, the Internet is a bunch of cables in dimly lit, pretty chilly rooms. A country like Egypt probably has a dozen of these,” explains Craig Labovitz, chief scientist for Arbor Networks, an Internet security company. “It’s as simple as literally unplugging these devices. From a practical standpoint, it’s more likely a phone call and then making a few changes on the computer to change the configuration.”

It’s simple to make these changes in the country because there are only 10 Internet providers and a centralized government that can quickly order them to yank out the cables. If the providers refuse, they can lose their licenses from the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority.

On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Egypt to restore communications, and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs reiterated the U.S. position that access to the Internet is a “basic human right.”

Congress has contemplated implementing an Internet “kill switch” at home, for use in emergencies., but it would be more complicated to effect that here, or in Western Europe, where there are more fiber-optic cables and thousands of providers.

Really, the United States only seems to have a handful of providers, almost all of which have already shown themselves to be too happy to capitulate to the government on issues of warrantless wiretaps (ominously, the one who did not alleges NSA retaliation). So it seems to me that yes, it could happen here, easily.

On top of which, reading that Congress has contemplated an internet “kill switch” is very disturbing to me. Stick that in your tricorn hats, patriots!

You know, I’ve always been amused by right-wing fantasies about their beloved “Second Amendment solutions.” It’s like you guys are watching an old movie from 1950 or something. Everyone imagines they’ll be the hero in these teleplays, “Red Dawn”-style, but that’s just hilariously outdated. I once suggested that anyone wanting to take down the government will be writing computer code, not waltzing around guns a-blazing. That’s reality. And if you want to start a revolution, you’ll be doing it on your BlackBerry and your iPhone and YouTube.

Nothing makes that more abundantly clear than seeing how quickly Egyptian authorities pulled the communications plug. They had learned their lesson from last year’s Iran uprisings, after all. Future popular revolts around the world will see similar communications crackdowns, you can bank on that. So while a bunch of people pretend they are defending democracy by waltzing around outside presidential rallies with guns strapped to their legs, they might be better off paying attention to their internet access.

Just a thought.

Adding … I just remembered I know some ham radio enthusiasts who have always considered themselves the “last defense” in case of an emergency, disaster or uprising … Now I see why.


Filed under protests, telecom

3 responses to “>The Revolution Won’t Be Twitterized

  1. >On top of which, reading that Congress has contemplated an internet “kill switch” is very disturbing to me. Stick that in your tricorn hats, patriots!Nothing tells me that these guys are a bunch of phonies being led around by the nose more than their mute acquiescence to the USAPATRIOT Act, something that the Founders they claim to revere would no doubt condemn.~

  2. >I've been doing IT work for some time, and am well aware of how top-down the Internet actually is. It being a packet-switched network gives the impression of having a bottom-up architecture, but at the upper end, there are a fairly small number of backbones and especially transfer points (this is why it was so easy for the Bush Administration to monitor internet traffic from the single wiring closet in San Francisco). Throw in a limited number of undersea cables, and yes, communication could grind to a halt pretty rapidly…