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Egypt Internet, social media users find some relief, Cairo blogger says

January 29, 2011 |  3:26 pm

Wael-abbas

Cairo-based Egyptian blogger and journalist Wael Abbas tweeted Saturday that some social media users had been able to access the Internet  in the capital city on the fifth day of growing unrest there.

Abbas confirmed on his Twitter feed that cellphones are working but text-message services are still unavailable.  Without citing sources, he said that Internet is available for about 8% of Egyptians. He urged those with working wireless Internet connections to remove their passwords so others could tap into their services.

Abbas had last posted to Twitter on Thursday. He wrote: “Internet seems to be down in Cairo, stay tuned world!”

About 11 a.m. Saturday, Abbas tweeted: “I’m online again!”

As of Friday, Internet service had been shut down at all but one service provider, The Noor Group, and estimates of Internet access for Egyptians had ranged from 8% to 12%.

Abbas is a longtime blogger at the website Misr Digital (Egyptian Awareness) who was named CNN’s Middle East Person of the Year in 2007 and one of BBC’s most influential people in 2006. Videos of the protests have been posted to Misr Digital.

President Obama on Friday urged Egyptian authorities to restore  access to social networks, after  Facebook and Twitter feeds had been blocked earlier this week.

He said: “I also call upon the Egyptian government to reverse the actions that they've taken to interfere with access to the Internet, to cellphone service and to social networks that do so much to connect people in the 21st century.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had echoed Obama’s call to open social networks.  Egyptians had used cellphones and social networks including Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube to distribute news and information on planned demonstrations. 

Social media accounts used by those on the ground in Cairo have proved a valuable source of information for international news organizations. Previously they have been used to document uprisings in Tunisia, China and Iran.

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-- Craig Howie

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