February 2nd, 2011


Egypt and the Internet

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. Please leave any comments there.

Hosni Mubarak, whose song is ending, took steps a week or so ago to prevent the Egyptian people from using social media to organize and communicate, starting with blocking access to Facebook and Twitter, and culminating with shutting down all in-country ISPs.   Regardless of the morality of these actions, they were legally ordered and carried out by a government that has been recognized as the legitimate government of a sovereign nation for around 3 decades.

Google, Inc., along with most of the rest of the world, took exception to these actions.  Unlike most of the rest of the world, Google realized they were in a position to do something about it, and so they did.   They came up with the idea of a speak-to-tweet service—the ability for anyone to tweet using just a voice connection.  They did this deliberately, to support the protesters who are organizing to bring down the current government.

While I hope the pending transition of power in Egypt is executed peacefully – 30 years is long enough – the larger question in my mind is the relationship between Egypt and Google.  Had another sovereign nation taken those steps, or even requested and funded Google to take those steps, it would likely have been considered an act of war.  How does a “brick and mortar” nation-state go to war against a global multinational corporation?  At what point does the world need to start recognizing that companies with more people and money than many small countries might need to be included in something like the UN, and held to many of the same standards? 

What happens if Microsoft joins the teabaggers and decides to support the overthrow of New York?