Last night, Egypt severed its connections with the wider Internet. (Coverage from the New York Times and Global Voices, for example, and see coverage of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remarks.) There are at least two worrisome implications of this move. First, Egyptian protesters are using the Net to coordinate, and to keep in touch with supporters outside the country. Second, if Egypt’s government is planning a crackdown – and that seems likely – they will want to minimize Tiananmen-style footage.
Those who decry this tactic – and I’m among them – should note that former cybersecurity czar Richard Clarke has advocated that the U.S. have exactly this type of capability: he openly admires China’s ability to pull up the drawbridge at its international gateways. (See pages 147-148, and 216, of his book “Cyber War.”) While U.S. law, and traditions, regarding free speech protect us against an Egyptian-style blackout, it’s worrisome to confer this level of absolute technological veto on a state.