January 25th will be remembered throughout history as the day of irony; the National Police holiday eventually had the entire security forces roaming the streets from all parts of Egypt in an attempt to control an overwhelming turnout for anti-corruption demonstrations. While the protesters were mobilizing and collaborating together, the Egyptian authorities resolved to desperate attempts in order to hinder the communication.
Over the span of a few hours, websites like Bambuser, twitter and Al Dostor newspaper (amongst others) have all become inaccessible after an old-fashioned ‘pulling of the plug’ by the genius personnel of the Egyptian authorities. It is not clear how long the censorship will go on for, but in all cases, the following are the different ways in which you can bypass censorship and access any website you want:
- Use a proxy website, such as hidemyass.com or any of the websites listed here
Advantages: Very easy, just go to the website, and use the provided bar to visit any website. No installation required, and it’s free
Disadvantages: You’re left with an annoying header that occupies a large portion of the screen, and it’s certainly not ideal for long term. It’s better used as a quick temporary fix
- Use the browser Opera with its Opera Turbo option (available by clicking the small clock symbol at the bottom). It is available for Windows, Mac and Linux
Advantages: Opera is a cool browser anyway, and it’s free of course. Enabling the option is cake, and you don’t need to worry about banners or anything getting in the way – just browse normally
Disadvantages: The Opera Turbo option compresses and caches all websites, so any image you come across will be at a noticeably lower quality than the original (that’s how they can speed up the page loading)
- Use a free proxy software that you install and run, after which you’re free to browse any website normally. You can use Hotspot Sheild, or any of the ones listed here
Advantages: After you install, you can have it run automatically, or just click ‘connect’ before getting started, and then any browser activity is made anonymously. It’s free
Disadvantages: You’ll have to put up with some banner ads here and there (that’s how they can make money to support the servers that you’re going through)
- Use a professional VPN service, such as USAIP, that not only bypasses censorship here, but also makes websites believe you’re in another country (with a handful of choices). In case you don’t know what is a VPN, it stands for Virtual Private Network. It allows you to extend your private network, keeping your security in a public connection.
Advantages: Available for all operating systems, and smart phones as well. Very simple to set up, and all you need to do is connect before starting any internet activity (not only websites, but any app you have accessing the internet). You can choose from many locations within the United State and Europe (which allows you to use websites like Hulu and BBC iPlayer)
Disadvantages: Costs $8 monthly
I personally recommend using Opera because it’s easy and straight-forward. This should work as a temporary solution until we see the final outcome with the Egyptian authorities’ censorship stance. In the case of the prolonged continuation of web censorship, investing in a proper VPN would certainly be worthwhile. I’ve had a USAIP account anyway, so that’s what I’ve been using today.
It’s ironic that the Egyptian government declared January 25th an official holiday to commemorate the Egyptian police forces, because it’s probably the most stressful day of the year for them. But I think that it’s even more ironic that they censored the web thinking that they would be able to control us better, when it is precisely that move that will make us take advantage of the internet to its fullest extent, and work together to bring down this corrupt regime.
The beauty of the web is that it is by us, and for us, and there’s nothing that Mubarak’s family can do about it.