Egypt’s Mubarak regime today shut down Internet and cell phone communications before launching a violent crackdown against protesters.
Free Press has just discovered that one American company — Boeing-owned Narus of Sunnyvale, Calif. — has sold Egypt “Deep Packet Inspection” (DPI) equipment that can be used by the regime to track, target and crush political dissent over the Internet and mobile phones.1
Egyptian security forces have already arrested leading opposition figures for speaking out online. At such a crucial moment of democratic upheaval, it’s shocking that an American company would help Egypt repress its people.
Since the 2009 crackdown in Iran, Free Press has raised the alarm over the abuse of this technology. Today, we’re calling on Congress to investigate global trafficking in DPI technology by American firms.
Lawmakers of both parties seem to agree that democracy everywhere is at risk when you let repressive regimes block open networks.
“Internet Censorship is a real challenge, and not one any particular industry — much less any single company — can tackle on its own,” California Rep. Mary Bono Mack wrote in 2009. “Efforts to promote freedom of expression and to limit the impact of censorship require both private and public sector engagement.”
Yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Egypt’s government “not to prevent peaceful protests or block communications, including on social media.”
The power to control the Internet and the resulting harm to democracy are so disturbing that the threshold for using DPI must be set very high. That’s why, before DPI becomes more widely used around the world and at home, the U.S. government must establish clear and legitimate criteria for governing the use of such surveillance and control technologies.
Tell Congress to protect free speech online at home and abroad, and to investigate DPI now.
Today, as we’re watching the grave dangers of DPI technology unfold in real time on the streets of Cairo, it’s urgent that our lawmakers do everything they can to protect free speech and democracy.