Amongst all the chaos in Egypt, the Egyptian government took a step last week which seems to be common amongst repressive regimes when protesters become bold: they turned off the Internet and SMS networks, to make it difficult for people to organize themselves.
Vodafone’s CEO confirmed that they received such an order, and that — under Egyptian law — they were obliged to comply.
Almost immediately, concerned citizens – obviously not Egyptian citizens, who were cut off from the service – started expressing their displeasure. Not just with Egypt, but with Vodafone. They urged people to write to Vodafone and demand that Vodafone return access to people in Egypt.
Be careful what you wish for
Here at the Big Bad Blog, we have a huge problem with this.
We are of the opinion that the Egyptian government’s actions was an oppressive act, performed by an oppressive regime. We wish the protesters well, and applaud private citizens who are contributing to projects such as TOR which can be used to circumvent actions like those of the Egyptian government.
However, we think that Vodafone did the right thing, and needs to obey the Egyptian government so long as they are the relevant authority in Egypt.
Our reasoning is simple: we do not believe that private corporations should decide what laws or (legally issued) government orders they should follow. We believe that private corporations already hold too much influence regarding the machinations of politics — just take a look at your local laws regarding “pirated” music — and do not think that the revolution should be sponsored by Vodafone.
If it is OK for Vodafone to disobey Egypt’s legal instruction to shut off their service, then what prevents Facebook from ignoring privacy concerns in Canada, or BP from ignoring environmental protection legislation in the United States?
For the most part, these people who want Vodafone to turn around and tweak Mubarek’s nose are those same people who decry that corporations are being treated as people when it comes to political donations in the United States, or the influence of industry on intellectual property laws.
This is nothing more than having one’s cake and eating it too.
If you — like us — believe that corporations should be obedient to the law and not agencies that work for political change, then Vodafone did the right thing. Be disappointed and upset with Mubarek’s government.
For Vodafone, turning off access to the Internet was something they had to do — it is a condition that was required in order to provide Internet access in the first place.