China starts censoring the word "Egypt"

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China's communist government is trying to make it harder for its citizens to discuss the mass protests currently occurring in Egypt. Chinese officials are wary of violent uprisings in parts of their country, and so have begun blocking the word "Egypt," according to The New York Times.

Over the weekend, keyword searches with the word were blocked on Sina.com and Netease.com, two of the nation's biggest online portals, as well as on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter. This didn't stop the discussions completely, of course, but it definitely made it harder to keep them going. In addition to Internet censorship, the Chinese government has also framed the Egyptian protests as a chaotic attempt to plant democracy in countries that are not quite ready for it, via editorials and articles in state-controlled news publications.

The Internet blackout in Egypt began last week: first Twitter was blocked, then Facebook stopped working, and finally the Internet was cut off. Most recently, Egypt's last standing ISP was disabled, putting a final nail in the coffin.

Many dial-up Internet services are being offered to Egyptians from around the world, to help them get around the government's shutdown of the Web. A small group of engineers from Google, Twitter and SayNow have developed a "speak-to-tweet" service that lets anyone send messages over Twitter without an Internet connection.

China's Internet censorship is a terrible thing, but at least the country's citizens have some form of access. Could you imagine if protests in China got so out of hand that the government decided to turn off the Web in the world's most populous country, and the one with the largest Internet population?


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