Censorship Kills the Video Star

photo courtesy of graciolli, via Flickr

By Alex Dibble

Recent revolutions reveal the danger posed to authorities of citizen journalism finding its way online.

The issue of internet censorship’s been thrust once again into the limelight. As thousands of Egyptians take to the streets in protest against President Hosni Mubarak the authorities have taken special care to restrict communications.

Al Jazeera have been ordered to stop broadasting, and web access has been severely stunted. Internet monitoring organisation Renesys have reported that all routes to Egyptian networks have been withdrawn.

It’s not the first time such an action’s happened. In Iran, for example, the regime implemented an extensive filtering operation at the time of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s disputed presidential election victory in 2009.

Disabling communication is the primary motive in these cases, as much of the protests are organised via the web.

But there’s a second advantage – removing the ability to easily upload video footage.

On December 9th 2010 thousands of students took to the streets of London as MPs debated whether to raise the tuition fee cap to £9,000. As the scenes got ugly, one protester filmed policemen tipping a teenager from his wheelchair and dragging him across the street.

The footage was uploaded onto YouTube, made the national press and provoked widespread condemnation of the police officers involved.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) later said it would oversee an investigation. The footage also led to further protests against the use of violence by police.

With criticism of the authorities abounding, it’s easy to see why the Egyptian government would like to prevent those on the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and Suez from accessing the internet.

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