News / Middle East

Technology Changes Government Response to Uprising

The Google Transparency Report shows the moment when the government in Cairo cut off access to the Internet for Egypt.  Click the graphic to see the interactive version on Google.
The Google Transparency Report shows the moment when the government in Cairo cut off access to the Internet for Egypt. Click the graphic to see the interactive version on Google.

Technology is proving to be a challenge for autocratic governments facing public uprisings. From the outset of the protests, Egypt's rulers responded with harsh tactics to shut down digital communication. Governments around the world are learning how technology can hurt them or help them.

Live pictures of the protests in Cairo were broadcast via the Arab television network, al Jazeera - until the Egyptian government jammed its satellite.

Many tweets signaled where protestors were gathering - until the Egyptian government blocked the Internet.

New media is playing an increasingly vital role in anti-government rebellions.

At al Jazeera English in Washington, reporters supplement live coverage from the network's headquarters in Qatar.  

Nick Toksvig, the bureau's executive producer, said, "The authorities have tried to make things difficult for us, which I interpret as a sign we are doing our job."

For now, al Jazeera is managing to still send out live pictures from Cairo, but only from portable satellite technology that shows this one view.

News anchors introduce their Egyptian correspondents, without mentioning their names or exact locations.

That's because their Cairo reporters have lost their credentials and some have been jailed. Al Jazeera's license to operate from Cairo has been revoked and the bureau is closed. These all are actions taken last weekend by the Egyptian government.

 

 

 

 

 

"Wherever you are in the world, if you want to try and control information, any outlet that expresses a view that is perhaps not your chosen view, might be a concern, especially if you are in a position of power or government," said Toksvig.

George Washington University professor Steven Livingston is monitoring twitter feeds from Egypt. The tweets are posted by individuals with handheld technology. Last week, the smart mobs - as they are called - tweeted to coordinate groups and also to warn of approaching police. This week, cell service is spotty. Google has started Speak-2-Tweet. Egyptians can phone and leave a voice message that is placed onto twitter feeds.

A recent message transmitted this way said, "Peace be with you. I'm Ehab from Cairo. I want to say one message. We are 85 million pharoahs. We fight this man, we want him to leave Egypt."

Livingston said blocking digital technology can only last so long. "It becomes a hindrance after a while for Egypt to function as a society integrated into the rest of the global economy at all, if business people can't make cellphone calls."

Livingston said an Internet feature called "event mapping" helps protesters. Red spots on the map correspond to what's happening at that location. The crowd directs its movement with the information posted.

Also, If there is a need at that location, average citizens find others who can meet the need. The grassroots coordination is done without government assistance and lacks any leader.

"It's a self-organized movement of people who can take advantage of a new kind of way of sharing information that leaves authoritarian regimes in a very difficult situation," said Livingston.

Professor Livingston said experts differ on the future of technology and its impact on oppressive governments. Some believe technology like this will liberate citizens. Others think it will empower rulers to identify and crush opposition.

NEW: Follow our Middle East stories on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

Carolyn Presutti

Carolyn Presutti is an Emmy and Silver World Medal award winning television correspondent who works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters.   She has also won numerous Associated Press awards and a Clarion for her coverage of The Syrian Medical Crisis, Haiti, The Boston Marathon Bombing, Presidential Politics, The Southern Economy, and The 9/11 Bombing Anniversary.  In 2013, Carolyn aired exclusive stories on the Asiana plane crash and was named VOA’s chief reporter with Google Glass.

You can follow Carolyn on Twitter at CarolynVOA, on Google Plus and Facebook.

You May Like

Mugabe Dismisses Male-Female Equality

'It is not possible that women can be at par with men' incoming African Union president declares on eve of summit More

Somali Terror Suspect's Light Sentence Raises Questions

Abdullahi Yusuf, 18, could have spent 15 years in prison but judge instead sentenced him to a halfway house, and a program to try to integrate him back into the community More

Video Kobani Ravaged Following Kurdish Ouster of IS Militants

Even so, hundreds of refugees sheltering in Turkey seek to return; Kurdish forces hold some back, saying fighting continues More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid