The Egyptian government announced on Wednesday that it was blocking a list of 21 websites for “having content that supports terrorism and extremism as well publishing lies.”
Among the sites blocked was the main website of Qatar-based Al-Jazeera, which has also been blocked by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The Saudi and UAE blocks were imposed as a result of impolitic remarks by Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, which the state Qatar News Agency claims were false propaganda planted by hackers.
Egypt went further, blocking a number of websites that security sources told Reuters were “affiliated with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood or funded by Qatar.” The Egyptian government also said it was preparing legal action against the banned websites.
However, it soon became clear that a number of sites that did not meet either of those criteria were blocked, including a “progressive” Egyptian news site called Mada Masr and the Arabic-language site of the Huffington Post. Mada Masr issued a statement that said it initially thought it had been attacked by hackers but then learned of the government ban on numerous websites.
“There are ways of accessing our website for now through proxies and cached copies. It’s not ideal, but let’s be agile. We are the children of margins; from there we emerge and re-emerge,” said the Mada Masr statement.
Reuters’ sources only named five blocked websites but acknowledged a total of 21 sites have been banned.
Egypt’s state news agency MENA made the announcement that the banned websites were blocked for “having content that supports terrorism and extremism, as well as publishing lies.”
When Reuters got in touch with Egypt’s National Telecom Regulatory Authority for comment, an official said the agency could neither confirm nor deny the ban but added: “So what if it is true? It should not be a problem.”
Engadget notes that Egypt’s website bans are usually fairly easy to circumvent for dedicated fans of blacklisted sites, although it was a bit tougher to work around the ban Cairo briefly imposed against the entire Internet in 2011.