February 14, 2011

With anti-government demonstrations intensifying in Algeria and protestors hoping to topple the country’s authoritarian government after the Egyptian uprising forced President Hosni Mubarak from power, reports suggest that the embattled government has blocked access to the major social media websites and some news agencies also claim that the internet is now inaccessible in much of the country.

The Daily Telegraph reported in great detail on the events in Algiers, where more than 30,000 police officers have been battling growing crowds of protesters, many of whom organised their rallies using Facebook, the largest social networking website.

But analysts warn that shutting the internet down will result in a major financial fall-out for an already economically-challenged country, which means that Algerian president Abdelaziz Boutifleka needs to think long and hard about whether he continues to censor social media websites.

Egypt’s decision to block access to the internet cost the country an estimated $90 million, on top of much larger sums lost due to the departure of nearly all tourists from the country.

But the possibility of shutting down the internet in any given country, often referred to as the “internet kill switch”, has caught the attention and interest of leaders around the world, and particularly in the most authoritarian countries.

Yet even the United States is considering a similar “kill switch,” with US senators Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins both proposing legislation that would allow the American president to order access to the internet be widely curtailed and even blocked altogether, in the event of a major cyber-attack.

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