With tensions and violence — including a reported five deaths — escalating in Egypt today, the White House, other governments and citizens around the world decried the country's virtual shutdown by blocking the web and hindering mobile communications.
"Very concerned about violence in Egypt - government must respect the rights of the Egyptian people & turn on social networking and internet," tweeted White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, expressing the administration's grave concerns ahead of a press conference today.
After the Egyptian Government ordered ISPs to shut down service, the UK-headquartered Vodafone complied in tandem with local ISPs, Link Egypt, Telecom Egypt, and Etisalat Misr.
Vodafone confirmed its actions today and posted the following statement defending its actions:
"All mobile operators in Egypt have been instructed to suspend services in selected areas. Under Egyptian legislation the authorities have the right to issue such an order and we are obliged to comply with it. The Egyptian authorities will be clarifying the situation in due course."
The White House wasn't buying it.
"We believe the basket of individual freedoms include the freedom to use the Internet and the freedom to access social networks. The people of Egypt have the right to freedom of speech, and that includes the right to use the Internet," Gibbs stated in a White House press conference this afternoon, while Egyptian soldiers enforced a curfew as night fell in Cairo and beyond.
According to Raw Story, "Vodafone was for years the Egyptian government's partner in building and maintaining the regime's official website and network infrastructure. Protesters on Friday destroyed Vodafone stores in Cairo, among other locations tied to the ruling regime, according to reports by Al Jazeera English."
Vodafone Group CEO Vittorio Colao addressed the issue at the World Economic Forum today, where he was speaking in a Davos session on mobile and confirmed that “Egyptian authorities” had asked the company to “turn down the network totally.”
According to the Wall Street Journal,
"Colao said Vodafone determined that the request was legitimate under Egyptian law, and therefore complied with the request, (saying) “I hope” the decision will be reversed by Egypt “very soon.”
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday urged Egypt not to bar its citizens to technology and social media, with Twitter and other sites blocked by president Mubarak's government in a bid to thwart social organizing of antigovernment protests.
"From now on, any and all dissent movements will have technology as a core component," commented Clinton senior adviser Alec Ross to the Washington Post.
Twitter also responded to the situation in a blog post defending freedom of expression as a human right, titled "Tweets Must Flow."