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Crowdsourcing of Censorship in Egypt


The Egyptian government is now crowdsourcing censorship efforts. A new web page created by the country's National Telecommunications Registry Agency, allows citizens to report blasphemous websites (Arabic-language links). According to Alix Dunn of tech activism blog "The Engine Room", the site is designed to help find pages showing a controversial anti-Islam film. The film, a low-budget American effort called The Innocence of Muslims, portrays Mohammed in extremely negative ways and sparked violent riots worldwide.

In Egypt, courts ruled that all sites hosting content from the film or linking to content from the film should be blocked. This proved difficult, so the courts explicitly demanded a 30-day ban on YouTube (the site that hosted the offending clips that fueled the turmoil). More on that from EFF and EIPR and the Guardian.

The communication ministry quickly announced (after pressure from telecommunication companies) that a YouTube ban would be impractical and too expensive (not to mention, illegal).

Visitors to the National Telecommunications Registry page are instructed to leave the offending URL on a page with a CAPTCHA link; government bureaucrats then review the page and block it if it leads to blasphemous content. This service follows on the heels of a failed attempt to ban YouTube in Egypt because of numerous uploaded copies of The Innocence of Muslims.

The film itself was directed by an Egyptian-American Christian with previous fraud and methamphetamine arrests; actors in the movie were apparently unaware of what they were being filmed for and anti-Islamic dialogue was overdubbed in post-production. YouTube banned the video in Egypt and Libya earlier this year in response to widespread public outcry in those two countries.

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