Twitter blocked in Egypt

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Twitter at centre of Arab uprisings

Twitter was blocked in Egypt yesterday amid growing political unrest in the Arab world.

The social networking site was being used by Egyptian protestors to coordinate anti-government demonstrations, following the example of Tunisia, which overthrew its own government last week. Many commentators have suggested that the Egyptian state ordered the move. If proven, it would become yet another example of how world governments are clamping down on social networking for political purposes.

Twitter gets political

Fittingly, the company's response was played out on its newly launched Twitter Comms account, @twitterglobalpr. "We can confirm that Twitter was blocked in Egypt around 8am PT today. It is impacting both and applications," it tweeted in the early hours of Wednesday morning. "Re Egypt block: We believe that the open exchange of info and views benefits societies and helps govts better connect w/ their people."

Twitter has so far declined to speculate on who is behind the blocking, preferring instead to direct news providers to Herdict, a project of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University that specialises in tracking global web accessibility. However, a spokesman for Herdict told AFP last night that it could not confirm or deny whether Twitter's inaccessibility was the result of intentional blocking.

The emphasis on breaking news has made Twitter a popular tool for revolutionaries. Last year, for instance, the social networking site was used by thousands in Iran to post uncensored messages and pictures to the rest of the world during the political uprisings there. Some analysts even went so far as to describe the Iran uprisings as the 'Twitter revolution'.