You know it’s getting serious when people aren’t using Facebook. The social networking giant now says it has noticed significantly reduced traffic from Egypt as a result of the Egyptian government’s attempt to shut down its country’s Internet this week to quash political protests. Though we’ve seen governments attempt to censor the Internet in times of uprising before (like during the 2009 Iranian election), Forbes says this is “the first time in modern history a major Internet economy is being shut down.”
Mobile phone networks have reportedly been disrupted, leaving millions without access to text messaging or phone calls. The country’s key Internet Service Providers are also off the air, says James Cowie, the chief technology officer of Internet monitoring firm Renesys on his blog. “Virtually all of Egypt’s Internet addresses are now unreachable, worldwide. [Forbes]
Indeed, Cowie says, this is something new compared to other government internet censorship:
Similar demonstrations and Web outages are occurring in Tunisia, though Cowie noted that the Egypt Internet downtime “is a completely different situation from the modest Internet manipulation that took place in Tunisia, where specific routes were blocked, or Iran, where the Internet stayed up in a rate-limited form designed to make Internet connectivity painfully slow.” [PC Magazine]
Thoughts of a government being able to just “turn off the Internet” has people in other countries frightened, but it was particularly easy to achieve in Egypt.
The Social Network arrives in theaters around America today. Written by Aaron Sorkin (creator of the TV shows The West Wing and Sports Night), the film purports to tell the tale of Mark Zuckerberg’s creation of Facebook at Harvard, and drips with backstabbing high drama. The early reviews are in, and the forming consensus is: It’s a fabulous film, but don’t go to the cinema expecting the truth.
The Facebook company itself has called the film a fiction. But that’s partly because Zuckerberg has shown no inclination to discuss his history—at least not with the creators of this film.
What makes The Social Network more intriguing than a standard biopic is that it was made without the co-operation of its principal subject — whose own mission in life seems to be to let us all make unauthorised biographies of each other. Personality and motivation inferred from a smattering of potentially misleading facts: isn’t that precisely the kind of thing that worries people about Facebook? [New Scientist]
As of this writing, the “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” Facebook page has nearly 83,000 likes and is rising steadily. Presumably, none of those fans are in the government of Pakistan, as the page prompted the conservative Muslim country to block first Facebook, but then also YouTube, parts of Wikipedia, and other Web sites—more than 450 in all.
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) keeps itself busy scanning the Internet for material that it says would offend its population, the second-largest Muslim population of any country. Two years ago it temporarily banned YouTube until the site removed cartoons of Mohammed. Typically the PTA bans particular links, but this week it complained that the amount of objectionable material on Web was increasing and decided to cut off it citizens from some of the biggest sites on the Web. The ban is said to run through the end of May, giving Web sites the chance to remove offending materials if they choose.
Social networking sites are extremely popular in Pakistan, a country of 170 million, where more than 60 percent of the population is under the age of 25. Pakistan has about 25 million Internet users, almost all of them young, according to Adnan Rehmat, a media analyst in Islamabad [The New York Times].
So you already spend all your time on Facebook—that’s not enough for the social networking giant. Soon, it will want to know where you spend all your time (in the real world).
Over the weekend, TechCrunch identified a glitch in Facebook’s mobile site that allowed them to see a space for a new feature called “places” being built in the code.
Based on the code, this is what it seems that Facebook is about to launch: A mobile version of the site using the HTML5 location component to grab your location information from your phone. Once it does that, you’re taken to this new Places area of Facebook that presumably will have a list of venues around you. From here you can click a button to check-in. Yes, there will be check-ins [TechCrunch].
It appears that Facebook plans to jump into the world of being a location-based service in the vein of Foursquare or Gowalla. But rather than launching its own service to crush the two smaller companies, Facebook may consider buying up Foursquare. Rumors to that effect circulated this weekend because in addition to the code leak, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg paid a visit to Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley.
The possibilities are tantalizing, especially because we think if Foursquare really wants to sell, Facebook would be its best buyer. We’re also pretty sure Facebook has interest in Foursquare at the right price. Remember, a few months ago there were some rumors that Facebook kicked the tires on Foursquare rival Gowalla [San Francisco Chronicle].