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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

From The Register:
Egypt has embarked on a new wave of online censorship, blocking news websites and killing off VPN services in order to limit its citizens' access to information.

Over the past three weeks, the Egyptian authorities have blocked access to more than 50 news websites, including Al Jazeera and local newspapers Daily News Egypt, Al-Borsa, and Al-Mesryoon.

On Monday, as more and more Egyptians turned to VPN services as a way to get around the blocks, ISPs started blocking access to the websites of companies offering such services. Meanwhile, the newspapers themselves have tried to bypass the censorship by hosting their content on different domains.

The Daily News Egypt, for example, for a while used the thedailynewsegypt.com domain instead of its previous dailynewsegypt.com – although that address has now also been shut down.

The start of censorship coincided with a report, published in the Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper on May 25, in which the authorities claimed to have the right to block the newspapers through anti-terrorism powers.

In that report, the government of Egypt used examples of other countries blocking websites as justification for its own censorship. It did not mention the Egyptian Constitution, however, which most legal scholars agree actively prohibits limiting access to information. It also does not provide much by way of legal justification.

Egypt's official news agency also quoted a high-level security official as saying 21 websites had been blocked and Reuters quoted an official at Egypt's telecoms regulator, the NTRA, as saying: "So what if it is true? It should not be a problem."

The situation it being monitored and reported on by a number of organizations, most notably the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE). When contacted by the AFTE, service providers claimed that the website outages were the result of website failures rather than content blocking. The government of Egypt has also refused to formally acknowledge the blocks.
 This is the downside of making friends with authoritarian regimes.

Then again - everyone ignores these things when it is in their self-interest to do so. They always have and they always will, notwithstanding grandstanding at the UN.



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