Authorities in Egypt have stepped up their campaign of online censorship by blocking access to more than 50 news websites and also trying to stop Egyptians from turning to VPNs as a solution.
As we reported recently, the censoring of news outlets appears to be an ongoing issue in the country, while they have also recently made efforts to block VOIP providers and the encrypted messenger service Signal.
Attempted blackout of critical news
In just 3 weeks, the Egyptian regime has taken steps to block access to local newspapers Daily News Egypt, Al-Borsa, and Al-Mesryoon, as well as Al Jazeera which has served to severely limit Egyptians access to news content online.
The trigger for this latest wave of censorship came after Al-Masry Al-Youm published a report [in Arabic] in which it claimed the were arguing they had the right to block online news sites through the country’s anti-terror laws.
This was justified by citing the actions taken by other countries but made absolutely no reference to Egypt’s own Constitution which experts pretty much all agree prohibits the restriction of access to information.
Indeed, the entire approach of the Government of Egypt to this development seems to be very blasé! Reuters quoted an official at the NTRA, Egypt’s telecoms regulator, as saying “So what if it is true? It should not be a problem,” when asked about the censorship.
Despite such comments, the Government is yet to formally acknowledge the blocks have been put in place. And Egypt’s ISPs have claimed that the sites are down rather than actively being blocked, although multiple news providers have denied this.
Some of the news sites have been taking steps to try and get around the blocks themselves. The Daily News Egypt, whose website domain is usually dailynewsegypt.com began to mirror that site onto thedailynewsegypt.com. However, it is now reported that this site too has subsequently been blocked.
Efforts to restrict access to VPNs
Inevitably many Egyptian internet users have turned to VPNs in an effort to circumvent this censorship.
By using a VPN such as IPVanish or ExpressVPN (both of which are still accessible in Egypt at the time of writing) VPN users in Egypt are able to change their IP Address and therefore get around any blockade by hiding details of the sites they are accessing from their ISPs. All the ISP can see is a user’s connection to a VPN server, beyond that point, they have no site of where the internet traffic is going and therefore no way to block it.
However, it has been reported that the Egyptian authorities have been taking steps to try and block Egyptians from accessing VPN Providers too. Apparently, some VPN providers websites have also been blocked in an attempt to stop Egyptians from signing up.
This can, of course, be disheartening for Egyptians seeking to get around their government’s online censorship, but they should not give up. There are countless VPNs out there, many of which have multiple mirror sites, and the majority of which are still accessible.
If you cannot access the provider you like, make use of a money-back guarantee to sign up for one you can access and then use their protection to access the provider you really want to use. It should be a simple as that.
With the current censorship crisis showing no signs of abating and last year’s court ruling which permitted the Egyptian regime to use spyware to undertake surveillance against Egyptians, it has never been more important for Egyptians to be using a VPN. And they do still offer a solution to both the surveillance and censorship issues which currently threaten online freedom in the country.