Facebook Messenger, social media and news sites disrupted in Egypt amid protests

Network data from the NetBlocks internet observatory show disruption to Facebook Messenger, Facebook image CDN servers, as well as BBC News and other news sites in Egypt with two leading providers from Sunday, 22 September 2019.

Technical measurements show that the social media and messaging platforms became unavailable on AS8452 (Telecom Egypt) and AS24835 (Raya) on Sunday amid heightened political tensions following the publication of videos alleging state corruption. Egypt has seen some of its first political demonstrations in years after the political videos went viral on social media.

Update: Access to Twitter has also become intermittent in Egypt from 8 p.m. Sunday, local time. As with Facebook Messenger, network data indicate that approximately 40% of users are experiencing difficulty connecting at any given time, with Skype and other communication services also affected:

The affected sites were previously unrestricted and social media platforms are not generally blocked in Egypt. NetBlocks data confirm widespread user reports of difficulty accessing the services on Sunday.

The incident is ongoing at the time of writing. Measurements also indicate a period of restriction to Facebook image and upload servers although these services are intermittently available.

The new instances of network filtering are likely to impact media freedom and the rights to free assembly and association at a time when dissent is already limited in the region.

Why are Egyptians protesting?

Egypt saw a second night of clashes on Saturday and dozens of arrests in demonstrations against President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi. Anger spread after Egyptian businessman and actor Mohamed Ali posted videos online alleging that Sisi wasted millions on luxury properties at a time when many Egyptians are in poverty.

As clashes intensified, police used tear gas to suppress the protests. Although participation is currently low compared to uprisings in past years, the protests fuelled by social media have been seen as significant at a time when Egypt’s opposition is struggling to find representation in government.

Is the internet down in Egypt?

Restrictions are currently limited to specific online platforms and there is no sign of a wider nationwide internet blackout at the time of writing.

Subscribers of state-run telecommunications operator Telecom Egypt and Raya, which are also marketed under other brands, are currently impacted by the social media and news platform restrictions.

Network data show that Facebook Messenger is significantly disrupted for these users, while other users may experience intermittent difficultly uploading and accessing images on the Facebook social media platform. The UK’s BBC News and US-supported Alhurra News are also impacted.

Background

NetBlocks previously identified the censorship of campaign websites during the 2019 Egyptian constitutional referendum. Technical restrictions briefly caused disruption to social media link shortening services, causing widespread disruption to social media sharing for several hours.

Network measurements on Sunday, 22 September taken from multiple vantage points confirm the filtering of messaging, social media and news platforms in Egypt

 


Methodology

Internet performance and service reachability are determined via NetBlocks web probe measurements. Each measurement consists of latency round trip time, outage type and autonomous system identity aggregated in real-time to assess service availability and latency in a given country across service multiple network providers.

NetBlocks diffscans, which map the entire IP address space of a country in real time, show internet outages corresponding to connectivity disruptions. Purposeful internet outages generally have a distinct network pattern used by NetBlocks to determine and attribute the root cause of an outage, a process known as attribution which follows detection and classification stages.


NetBlocks is a civil society group working at the intersection of digital rights, cyber-security and internet governance. Independent and non-partisan, NetBlocks strives for an open and inclusive digital future for all.

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