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<nettime> Political opposition and communication technology in Egypt
Benjamin Geer on Fri, 22 Jun 2007 22:46:15 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Political opposition and communication technology in Egypt

This is an English translation of the transcript of a meeting entitled
"Bloggers in Prison, Too", which took place on 18 March 2007 at the
Centre for Socialist Studies in Cairo, Egypt:


The background for the meeting was the case of Abd Al-Karim Nabil
Sulaiman, an Egyptian blogger sentenced to four years in prison for
'contempt of religion'[1]. The discussion touched on many subjects,
including the worldwide battle against freedom of expression, the
state of Egypt's opposition groups, young people's participation in
protests, the political role of blogs, the loss of privacy and the
spread of wireless Internet technology.

Some excerpts from Alaa Seif's talk:

"Most of those tools [for protecting privacy on the Internet] have
been designed on the basis of the assumption that kidnapping and
torture have a very high financial and social cost.... So if they got
a copy of that encrypted email and wanted to decrypt it, the cost of
breaking the code would be ten thousand times more than the cost of
kidnapping you and torturing you and saying: 'Tell us what you said in
that email.' [laughter]  But that's based on the cost of kidnapping
and torturing you where?  In Switzerland. [laughter]  Great!  OK,
what's the cost of kidnapping and torturing you in Egypt?  About 5
Egyptian pounds [i.e. next to nothing]. [laughter]  See what I mean?
I'm totally serious."

"Today if you go to my home town... you'll find wireless Internet
antennas on the towers in which pigeons are raised.  That's a local
area network.  They can block web sites so that when I'm sitting in
Egypt I can't see what's out there, but as soon as something gets into
our local area network, it will spread.  This wireless technology is
very cheap, very easy to use, and it's the sort of thing Egyptians are
good at.  You know, just like we've got car mechanics who know how do
things that nobody else knows how to do, just wait until you see what
will happen with wireless technology in Egypt."

"One important thing is that we have to get in early as creators and
inventors.  What's happened now is that we reuse technology that was
designed for us elsewhere, and we're very good at putting things to
new uses.  But for some things... that might not be good enough in
some cases, so we need to come up with solutions ourselves."


[1] http://www.freekareem.org/

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