Social media has ingrained itself so thoroughly as an instrument of activist organization that it's targeted by many an authoritarian government seeking to quell an uprising. This week, as protests descended upon the Egyptian capital of Cairo, Twitter confirmed that it had been blocked in the North African country. On Wednesday, rumors began to spread that Egypt was trying to block Facebook as well--especially since it appears that a Facebook "event" page had been how many of the protesters found out about the gathering.
Not quite. "We are aware of reports of disruption to service but have not seen any major changes in traffic from Egypt," Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes told CNET via e-mail today. "You may want to visit Herdict.org, a project of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University that offers insight into what users around the world are experiencing in terms of Web accessibility." Herdict.org was also recommended by Twitter as a destination for users seeking answers during several hours on Tuesday in which the company itself declined comment.
That doesn't mean Egyptian authorities aren't trying. In CNET's coverage of Tuesday's news that Twitter had reportedly been blocked, we consulted Mark Belinsky, co-director of the nonprofit Digital Democracy, who explained that sometimes governments will not block a site altogether to crack down on activist opposition but may make its servers extremely difficult to access by slowing the connection down.