A Frightening Week

When something you have come to rely on is taken away from you, it is frightening.

This week, when I read that Egypt's government was able to completely turn off the Internet in country, it stunned me. The Internet was designed to be immune to such things.

I have come to accept the idea that I can skype with anyone anywhere in the world at any time as "the way it is." I have come to accept the idea that I can text message anyone with a cell phone anywhere in the world at any time as "the way it is." I have come to accept that I can check twitter and find out what is happening all over the world in real time as "the way it is."

Well it isn't exactly the way it is. And that is frightening to me.

My business interests are based on the availability of the wired and wireless Internet to everyone all over the world. Our firm has been active in working with the US government to make sure that continues to be the case in our country. We support net neutrality rules and oppose legislation such as COICA and the Internet Kill Switch.

But my business interests pale in comparison to my interests as a citizen of this world. When I think about being in a country that has no internet, no mobile phone service, and no international news on TV, it scares me. 

I suppose I am a "cyberutopian" at heart as Evgeny Morozov calls us. I believe in the power of technology, particularly communications technology powered by the internet, to make the world better, safer, and more open and free.

This past week has shown that the cyberutopian view is naive and that those who are not interested in a better, safer, more open and free world will use technology to further their interests too. 

So this has been a frightening week and one that shows that the fight for human rights all over the world will not be delivered a decisive win via the internet.


Comments (Archived):

    1. fredwilson

      yup, i am trying to figure out how best to help do that

      1. kidmercury

        you’ll get nowhere without the truth, i can promise you that much.

    2. leigh

      omg i have never seen that. in Canada they are talking about metering the Internet (pay as you play) which is all heading in the opposite direction of democratization, decentralization, and innovation.I do agree with Kid Mercury though, when stuff like this happens it helps us see our confidence in centralized controlled systems is flawed and should be seen as an opportunity for something new to merge.The one thing we can always be sure of with the network – it’s in its DNA to go around obstructions. Gov’t imposed or not πŸ™‚

      1. William Mougayar

        Re: your comment on Canada & meteringCanada is not talking about metering the Internet. Canada is talking about stopping the large ISP’s from having ridiculously low bandwidth caps on their plans. Canada wants better unlimited data plans, basically. See this must read initiative http://www.antiubb.com/ Anti-UBB initiative.

        1. leigh

          Sorry I’m confused (it is sunday so maybe i just need more coffee πŸ˜‰ – the article seems to agree with agree what i said – pay as you play is usage based billing which you are against yes?

          1. William Mougayar

            I’m against metering Internet usage. Bell Canada has proposed this, and the CRTC has approved it, but we are signing online petitions cc’ing Minister Clement to stop this madness. Metering means that downloading a movie will be more expensive than buying it! http://openmedia.ca/meter

          2. leigh

            ah ok so we agree πŸ™‚

      2. Prokofy

        I’m failing to understand why you can’t pay as you play. Why should we all pay for some guy to torrent his pirated movies and his WoW patch just to use our email badly and slowly.You pay for metered electricity, get used to it.BTW, I have a degree from a Canadian university. And not all Canadians share these views of yours.If downloading a movie turns out to be more expensive than buying it, then maybe the movie business will recover with more CD sales. Or, your theory might dictate that there will be more pirating. In which case the ISPs can knock the script kiddies off the torrents.Internet is a scarce resource. Party’s over.

        1. leigh

          I haven’t done a quant study yet to know if most Canadians agree with me or not.I think it is short sighted to see this in terms of what and how we currently use the Internet. Innovation will be stunted by a metered internet. There are potential platforms that we can only begin to conceive of now that could be impacted by this change.Attempting to save dying business models through command and control approaches to the Web and treating it like it’s electricity is short sighted. It’s not electricity. It never will be. ISP’s have never been able to been seen as anything but a pipe and it is their own lack of imagination and fear that has led them to this predicament IMO. There are some who are more innovative in their field who are thinking differently. Those that don’t do so at their peril.And not that it matters, but I also went to a Canadian university – am a Canadian and more importantly have worked with Executives for Cable companies and TELCOs in Canada and the US since the late nineties.The Internet becoming a scarce resource? Not right. The opposite of where I hope it goes and that is as a business person, marketer and individual.

        2. leigh

          oh and by the way for anyone who is really interested in this subject, Dr. Michael Geist a renowned law professor at the U of Ottawa has done a very thoughtful post on the policy and other issues of usage based billing….http://www.michaelgeist.ca/

    3. Craig Plunkett

      Agreed! Prohibiting the freedom to communicate? Proposed by two senators? Talk about heading the country in the wrong direction.

  1. Julien

    I had the same feeling… and what struck me is that we (as cybercivilans) are pretty much clueless as how to avoid this kind of things and how to flight back if [when?] it happens.The only idea that some people in some administration are trying to pass such laws as an “Internet Kill Switch” is extremely scary as people have no idea what that means. I’m pretty sure people would strongly react If anyone tried to forbid the use of books or newspapers and I’m sure nobody would try this, but the internet is far from being as “obvious” a right to some people. We need to make sure it becomes one.PS : did disqus do a redesign? It’s great!

    1. Fernando Gutierrez

      Most people understand what books are but don’t know how the internet really works. So when they are told that it’s for their security, they just buy it. Security is one of the most overused/abused words lately.

    2. fredwilson

      this is a new disqus theme. there will soon be many of them available via a marketplace like tumblr

  2. GlennKelman

    Don’t despair Fred. Egypt’s government will likely fall, in part because it has had to resort to such draconian measures. What’s interesting to me is that fundamentalist movements have rejected modernity so thoroughly except for their embrace of web and mobile technologies for communication and organization. I always wonder if you can be modern in one way, yet traditional in your approach to education, women’s rights and economic development.

  3. ErikSchwartz

    The real problem is not what the government is allowed to do, it’s what the government is capable of doing. Time and again we have seen that governments are perfectly happy to do things they are not allowed to do.We need a network that governments are not CAPABLE of disrupting.

    1. fredwilson

      this effort is encouraginghttp://techcrunch.com/2011/…

      1. William Mougayar

        Yup. There are 3 such efforts apparently:”3 Projects to Create a Government-less Internet”http://www.readwriteweb.com…

        1. Christina Cacioppo

          I’m glad someone mentioned efforts to build and support global mesh networks.While there are a dozen++ reasons these projects are tough to get off the ground, operate well, and ultimately make successful — well, I think they have the potential to do so much more for freedom of expression than many things governments and NGOs are doing today.

        2. Prokofy

          The Internet is as free as it is in the U.S. because it has a mixture of government, corporate, and nonprofit interests at stake supporting and using it.Take away that pluralism, and you reduce the freedom. And government intervention may be needed if corporate or nonprofit interest block free use of the Internet for others — and I say this not about the fake “net neutrality” issue which I dispute, but the problem of the corporate TOS and the geek mentality that sets up mutes, bans and blocks for views they don’t like.I’m sorry, but a darknet run by Dave Winer isn’t my idea of a free Internet.

    2. Fernando Gutierrez

      Some governments have understood really well that sometimes is more effective for you to apologize than to ask for permission.If they were so focused when they are dealing with other kind of problems maybe I would not be turning into an anarchist!

  4. William Mougayar

    These types of failed & corrupt governments (and there are many more of them, not just in Egypt) are used to media censorship for years (censoring what newspapers write), and they have been practicing it for a long time. Then, came the telephone, and they initiated telephone conversations surveillance programs (yes, these exist in several countries around the world, middle-east especially).Then, came the Internet and they saw it as another “telecommunications” medium which they also must control. (Think China too, as well Saudi Arabia who resisted the Internet during its early years).It’s a shame and an embarrassment at the same time. A shame for Egypt and China (and other countries) to practice Internet censorship and kill-switches, and an embarrassment for the rest of the world- for letting them get away with it.What’s frighteningly interesting about Egypt’s Internet black-out is that they were able to do it without affecting Internet traffic that was passing through Egypt,- which speaks to the sophistication of their control antics.

    1. Craig Plunkett

      The Egyptian network operators simply shut down the routes inside and out of their country. If any traffic transited Egypt on its way to another place, the core routing protocols of the Internet simply found the next least cost path. Standard operating procedure, no magic necessary.However, if the US shut its borders, Asia and Europe would be cut off from each other largely, because the majority of that traffic passes through the US. Other submarine fiber nets that link Europe and Asia via Africa and South America would be overwhelmed.

  5. reece

    The Internet has given people a voice and a means to communicate that is frightening to the governments of the world.They don’t know how to handle that which they can’t control, and they’ll continue to threaten their citizens by taking it away…Sure… The members of this community may be a bit “utopian” in their beliefs on internet access, but the world needs dreamers like us if ever our cyberutopia is to become a reality.

  6. Steven Kane

    Morozov does us all a service by throwing a little cold water on the overheated giddiness of “cyberutopians” (or any “utopians”.)But the bottom line is, duh, even despots and thugs squashing or using digital media for their own nefarious purposes doesn’t even come close to outweighing the myriad opportunities such technologies create for advancing the cause of human freedom, bit by bit (pun intended).Cory Doctorow nailed it – long piece but worth it – http://j.mp/gM1R5i

    1. fredwilson

      i read cory’s piece yesterday and it influenced this postand now i am chatting with Morozov on twitterhttp://twitter.com/#!/fredw…i love how blogging and twitter can bring two people together who have never met to have interesting discussions

      1. Prokofy

        It’s really outrageous how much influence Morozov has gained with his active measures, pretending to be a dissident, so far from his homeland, where people go to jail for democracy.Morozov does the work of authoritarian governments for them.

  7. gregorylent

    you are right about the internet, but perhaps naive about governments, even that one in ths us of a.

  8. Jan Schultink

    No country can sustain an internet shutdown economically anymore. Market forces will make sure it won’t happen too long/too often

    1. fredwilson

      yeah but the most underdeveloped countries can sustain it the longestand that is where it has the most potential for positive change

      1. Jan Schultink

        True.Still I think we are past the point of no return: email glues together business, including the government operations themselves.

    2. Dean Thrasher

      A total internet shutdown is clumsy and inefficient. It reflects a lack of sophistication on the part of the local authoritarian regime.More dangerous (from a personal liberties point of view) are selective shutdowns. China, for example, restricts access to particular ideas and innovations while allowing others. Many other regimes allow news organizations to operate, but only those approved by the state. Or allow businesses to operate, but only those connected to the regime. Or allow open communication channels, but only among members of the ruling party.It’s not the blackouts we have to worry about; it’s the brownouts.

      1. Jan Schultink

        Probably the same technology that powers corporate firewalls and URL filtering…

        1. Dean Thrasher

          Yes. Tools that seem benign in one context, like blocking children’s access to porn from school computers, can have a sinister aspect in others, like governments blocking access to protest sites from Internet cafes.Technology itself is neutral. It’s how we use it that matters.

    3. Vinay Pai

      I wish I could agree with you. Dictators worldwide have shown their willingness time and again to do things that hurt their businesses and people to maintain their hold on power.

  9. kidmercury

    nothing to be concerned about, it is simply the prophecy being fulfilled. you can cling to the old world order and suffer as the ship sinks or become the One who saves the world and delivers the new world order. i would suggest choosing the latter as it will provide you with both spiritual fulfillment as well as cash money to get some bling bling.tightly integrated networks, going all the way from alternate DNS roots down. the networking structure needs to be re-built so that nation-state governments are not in control. folks can view it as a crisis, although i personally view it as an opportunity. guess i am just more optimistic than most people. damn.don’t forget they shut down the banking system in egypt too. two words: virtual currencies.remember why they are rioting in egypt. political corrruption, rising food prices, income inequality. jordan, tunisia, saudi arabia are also on the list. this will go global and will come to the West.as the nation-state governments break down, new ones will be needed. to create a new government one needs moral authority. all moral authority stems from the truth.ignorance is futile. only the truth can set us free.9/11 was an inside job,kid mercury

    1. fredwilson

      are you a cyberutopian Kid?

      1. kidmercury

        using the definition of cyberutopian you provided in your initial blog post, i believe i am. i think it is a birthing process though, so the transition from nation-state to cyberutopia will be a bit painful (but ultimately quite rewarding!)

        1. raycote

          Or maybe the possibility of platform stability reaches a hull speed cutoff point just below the level at which volitional entities form the recombinant building block of any such possible cyber-utopian platform? Highly volatile levels of volition(read humans) are inherently unstable platform components.LETS HOPE NOT!

      2. daveaitel

        The original word for “cyberutopian” is “cypherpunk”, no? You don’t get free communications without lots of hard math, unfortunately. :>There’s really three boots on your neck here – two you can see, and one you can’t. The two you can see, governments and corporations (who owns that “last mile” again?) have obvious incentives and motives and actions.The other one, of course, is hackers, and not in the sense of “people who can write code” which is a lot of people, but in the sense of “people who break into all the computers you rely on”[1,3,4] which is probably a lot more people than you know. :>Honestly, in the battle between these three entities, your Skype calls and everyone’s Internet companies (Twitter is an obvious example [2]) are at best an audience and at worst collateral damage.[1] http://sourceforge.net/apps…[2] http://techcrunch.com/2009/…[3] http://linux.slashdot.org/s…[4] https://www.redhat.com/arch

    2. raycote

      I must say!I love that recurring line of yours!”ignorance is futile. only the truth can set us free.”the unfortunate flip side of that statement is:ignorance is popular it is easy to learn

      1. kidmercury

        lol thanks! unfortunately the inverse statement you posted is true as well. i do believe the world is in for a massive correction, though it does seem we are taking our grand old time in learning this.

    3. Prokofy

      Yeah, all through this Egyptian rioting and stuff, my chicken eggs in Second Life were selling great. The virtual Egypt sims were hopping with business too.Oops, but not with Egyptians, though, as their Internet was cut off.

      1. kidmercury

        prokofy, normally i enjoy defeating you in our beefs, but the hour is late and i no longer have the time. when you are mature enough to understand the truth about 9/11, perhaps then we can resume the conversation.but do let me know when you decide to buy gold. i am in the market for sell signals so i would like to know.

        1. Prokofy

          You know something? When they described the Internet-infused media-psychosis views of the Arizona shooter of Congresswoman Gibbs, I thought of you. I hope you don’t believe in bearing arms as well.No, I won’t be buying or selling gold. I guess you’ll have to pry it out of my teeth.

  10. CliffElam

    Of course all of China operates in a permanent state of semi-coma, information-wise.The Chinese government has planned better – they don’t shut down their twitters, they just ban all the tweets with mentions of Egypt. They have *always* been at war with East Asia.-XC

    1. fredwilson

      they block our twitter though

    2. JLM

      China runs mobile execution vans where their law enforcement comes to the site of unrest, identifies troublemakers, conducts sham trials in the front of a bus and executes them in the back of the bus.China is a dictatorship. Hu is a dictator.

  11. ShanaC

    Personal thought:Fredrick Douglass wrote in his autobiography about how one of his masters was forbidden by her husband to teach him to read, because it made slaves more rebellious.We still ended up freeing the slaves in part because of people like Fredrick Douglass.This may be the internet’s darkest hour – I still suspect that because of the outrage and as we see now the necessity of the internet, somewhere out there, hope will return, and we will conquer the DNS issue

    1. fredwilson

      shana – you should go see The Whipping ManGotham Gal blogged about it. i am certain you will enjoy it.http://www.gothamgal.com/go

  12. awilensky

    Gee, Fred,the following is not supposed to have a high-handed tone, but aren’t you aware of the history of telecommunications before the Kingsbury Commitment. the consent decree, etc. Before the AT&T divestiture, muscling via service cut-off, the threat of non-interconnections unless-play-ball-at-our-rate (interconnection arbitrage), and dirty deals between telcos and govs are the Old Normal. Just because data packet transit went to open standards and agnostic interconnections, does not mean that there are no weaknesses in the model. Choke points are real. They exist no matter what the architecture. It is just a matter of degree as to which routing and interconnect architecture is “more better” to thwart choking and arbitrage.In the EDI Communications industry, we see the re-constitution of a major choke point, and the creation of a monopoly reminiscent of the Pre-Kingsbury AT&T. The resulting antitrust case of Loren Data Corp v. GXS Inc. is not so noteworthy for ij its David vs. Goliath mismatching (GXS revenues of $100’sMM, and Loren Data Corp $1.1M, GXS a laggard with nary a new idea idea in decades, Loren Data Corp continuous innovations), the surprising fact of the Federal Lawsuit is: repetition of history in the network and teleoms era.Time and again we see private equity of questionable provenance enter a connected market, acquire the top two or more positioned networks, and exploit the roll up of networked assets and subscriber populations in order to influence subscriber pricing, or to leverage interconnection of the competitive networks – arbitrage of pathways. Hence we have the the sordid history of AT&T, MCI / Worldcom, and now in the supply chain market, GXS and Loren Data Corp.Choke until you get your price (Comcast, L3, who ever, AT&T – Carter Phone (equipment access), Verizon v. Covad ( provide access to local loop, but compromise the end user software and network provisioning.)And so on. But when I perceive much complacency on the part of the tech bogging and press on these interconnection arbitraging cases, so much so, that I am afraid that most pass by without a sound from Om or Furrier.

    1. fredwilson

      no sure what point you are making. i know it is important. but i amnot getting it

      1. awilensky

        governments can choke off communications, monopolies can choke off communications via interconnection and peering arbitrage. One does it for price advantage, one does it for political repression. One gets press exposure, one dies in the weeds while the end users get hammered. Simple.

        1. fredwilson

          got it, thanks

    2. Prokofy

      Yeah, like Verizon is “just like” the Egyptian government.This is why people like you don’t make sense.

  13. Moshe Eshel

    Sadly, the internet is still much of physical thing, Egypt is connected to the world via 1 (one) cable only, if you get your hand on this cable by intent (like this time) or by mistake (as has also happened in the past when they lost internet for a few days due to the cable being cut).It is by no means the only such country, and obviously the cable is under government control… even in countries where there are more connections, the main ones connecting most of the populace are under the control of the government.You are a Cyberutopian, it is a good thing, and one day your vision will endure, but we are not there yet…

  14. jsfloyd

    Another way to look at it is as a business opportunity: clearly individual citizens need a way to communicate online that doesn’t rely on large internet service providers who could shut down service at the request of the government. Who’s working on that?

  15. Dale Allyn

    Fred, I think that part of your “utopian” attitude stems from living in the U.S. (or at least the western hemisphere). I spend a lot of time in Thailand and what’s happened in Egypt could very easily be done in any of the countries of that region. Thailand is a very comfortable country in which to live and tour, etc., but civil rights are in their infancy there. I’m not saying that you do, but many of us take such important things as individual rights for granted. We’re really quite blessed here in the U.S. and other countries which have a governmental structure which more highly respects the citizens.I blogged about Egypt’s shutdown and comparison to the U.S. “kill switch” because it bothers me a great deal too. As I mentioned there, homeland security is important for any country, but fortification of the infrastructure is where to put the emphasis, not shutting down the web. Can you image the glee of some group who sets “faux chatter” in motion to threaten our power grid, only to watch us shut down the net in the U.S. and watch the chaos and economic turmoil?

  16. @NZN

    Ownership. It drives everything on this planet at this point. This is how a long blog entry starts.I will try to keep it short.John Hancock and his counterparts signed documents with nothing material standing behind their signatures except for ‘Individual Sovereignty’. Their ID’s were originated as owners. No American today is structured in the same way as our founders. We are all defined, not as asset owners, but as social liabilities by default, as a function of citizenship. This account structure is replicated everywhere. We were designed to possess our government. Reality is, our government possesses us. We are data-slaves. On Facebook, we are data-slaves. It is clear.The Internet will eventually break society in its quest to place power at the edges of society. Governments will work to stop this. Napster provided a moment of clarity about the structure of priorities of our government via the Supreme Court.In a socio-economic universe, the only freedom worth possessing is the freedom you own.Identity is the prime container of Rights and empowerments on this planet. Do you own yourself?Universally Distributed Privately Owned [UDPO] IDentity is the beginning of everything that comes next. Until then, you are racing the inevitable destruction of Individual Sovereignty and its inherent Rights and empowerments in your own life in an attempt to secure your freedom with ‘enough’ ‘useful’ wealth. Until people think beyond their income stream, change will fall short, and results will be predictable and very managed.The Internet is the foundation of a new socio-economic system, not just new business models.There are not nearly enough people aware of the nature of their participation. Employment is a systemic derivative of enslavement as presently delivered. Very much a cost effective outcome of the Civil War. Owning yourself… systemic, universal personal ownership… is the opposite of enslavement. Owners own the world… literally. But do you own yourself?The government is my dog. I am not the dog of my government. Man’s best friend must be re-conceived at its core… reconstituted… to systemically guarantee ‘Individual Sovereignty’ within the structure of IDentity. Own Yourself @noizivy

  17. MeanMisterMustard

    I seem to only bother commenting here when politics are at issue, but I think Fred deserves big props for this pieces, especially:”…my business interests pale in comparison to my interests as a citizen of this world.” And I’d add that Fred’s business interests could be helped a lot if he and others thought of where the political levers are.I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: people in tech, VCs, and entrepreneurs should really start to think seriously about where their interests lie and start engaging the political world with that in mind. So many people in these areas like to be apolitical or ‘Libertarian’, because it seemingly offers idealism and elegance. But really, you guys are all about creating something new, your politics should reflect that.Guys (techs, VCs, entrepreneurs), you have a real interest in having deep markets for your products. Information is something that everyone can consume. You guys need to get over worrying about welfare for the poor and realize that the huge distortions in EVERY country are designed to keep up a little clique’s cash flow, to the detriment of everyone else. So many things that are taken for granted in say, the U.S., reflect this: our bloated military, land use decisions that are designed to maximize resource consumption (and other rent-seeking), corporate laws that protect inefficient but entrenched interests, education systems that don’t look at long-run investment, infrastructure spending choices that just protect entrenched interests, drug policies to protect the alcohol, tobacco, and pharma industries, etc.I don’t have the answers, but really you guys need to think a lot more about how you can impact things. I think at the very least there is opportunity for paradigm shift equivalent to the 19th century and the industrial revolution. Those industrialists understood re-writing many of societies rules, people in tech should take a page from their play book and start writing out the privileges of those industrialists decedents.

    1. MeanMisterMustard

      One last thing (I know my rant was too long): you guys in tech/VC have tools others don’t have. You are in the best position to outflank a lot of entrenched, blood-sucking interests. Use that.

    2. fredwilson

      i agree with youour firm has spent a ton of time, energy, and some money too engagingin politics in the past few yearsi see it as a growing thing, not a temporary thing

  18. Tom Labus

    Iran hanged two guys this week who managed the posting of video to the Net during the 09 upheaval.

  19. Harry DeMott

    “I believe in the power of technology, particularly communications technology powered by the internet, to make the world better, safer, and more open and free.”So do the people in power in Egypt and elsewhere – which is why they want the power to turn the sucker off if it actually starts living up to its potential.Without a free and open internet – I’m not sure Obama is our president today (you can thank Chris Hughes and his job or doing a great job organizing supporters through social media) and yet we debate as a country whether there should be an internet kill switch.That’s like saying that the government should be able to turn off the printing presses at the NYT, WSJ, FT and USA today. Or allowing congress to seize the cell networks, the phone networks, the radio stations, the TV stations – and all of the cable systems.I don’t think anyone would stand for a government that could or would do that.Sure cutting off all internal communications and external contact in Egypt helps keep one regime in power for now – as organization gets more difficult – but it also serves to further destabilize those in power – who have shown their true colors.It’s a lot harder to be a tyrant in an open society.

    1. JLM

      The Mubarak regime is already history. The sound we heard when they turned off the Internet was the death rattle of a corrupt regime.Unfortunately, this corrupt regime served American interests well and was perhaps the only force — having been beaten so soundly by the Israelis in their last two encounters — in the region which could provide support (or at least indifference) to our weird relationship with our 51st state, Israel.If Egypt falls into the hands of a more radical government, the Middle East will explode within 5 years.

      1. paramendra

        After Mubarak falls what Egypt will see is democracy.

        1. JLM

          Emotionally, morally, intellectually there is nobody who aspires for all men to live in freedom more than me but that is not always the case.The default condition in the Middle East is not and never has been democracy. Not a huge surprise there as many have never known even a whiff of democracy. Wish that it were otherwise.Most of the folks being talked about to succeed Mubarak are cut from the same or worse cloth.While it may be wishful thinking that Egypt become a democracy, I join you in that wish.

          1. paramendra

            I guess I am more optimistic than you as to what the outcome of this turmoil will be. We will know soon.

      2. acoronab

        52 state…

        1. JLM

          Okaay, I just counted them — it’s hard because Rhode Island is always moving about — and there were only 50 but, of course, Texas keeps reminding everybody they can break up into 6 States — it’s right there in the documents, I read it — with 12 Senators but they can’t decide who gets Amarillo — stockyards, you know.And, Israel, makes 51!

  20. Phil

    I ran a startup out of Dubai.The internet was controlled & filtered by the TRA, a ‘government’ organization and our ISP & Phones were controlled Etisalat a government owned company (and one of the ones that blocked access in Egypt), their competitor “DU” was also government owned.There was never a time that we weren’t aware that we were working within the rules and whims of one person, Sheik Mo. It was commonly accepted that nothing we said or wrote while in the country that was transmitted over a wire was confidential.It’s a lousy way to work and live, the glamor and shine of Dubai wares thin really fast once you realize that the end of the day you’re in the middle (literally) of one of the most insecure and messed up areas of the world. What is really depressing is that Dubai was one of the more liberal places in the Middle East where people in the region strive to reach.We should all feel very lucky that we live where we do.

    1. William Mougayar

      Beirut/Lebanon is more liberal than Dubai at all levels,- cultural, business & political,- despite the internal tensions that currently exist. The Dubai “liberalism” started to take shape when Lebanon couldn’t fulfill that role in the region during its civil war years (’76-91).The root of these issues are the types of governments that are in place. They see these new forms of communications as a threat to their control.We are talking about the very fabric of freedom of expression. The Internet & Twitter enable the ultimate form of individual expression.

    2. fredwilson

      yes indeed

  21. IncrediBILL

    Fred, you’re living in a dreamland. The internet isn’t a right, nor is driving for that matter, and it can be taken away easily in a time of civil unrest or war. The first thing that happens in a war, and Egypt is in a civil war, is you disable communication. As long as the internet is built on a communications network, which is much be to exist, it can be either disabled or jammed.The best communications to have in such situations would be a satellite phone, satellite radio if possible (for news), and a ham radio. With the ham radio you can get packet radio and effective had some form of digital communications with an internet gateway.However, the simplest way to disable all communications, easier than tackling all communications, is to simply turn off the power grid and most people will be offline when their batteries die within a day.

  22. John Reeder

    I think a little perspective is in order here. When governments like Egypt shut down the net, it’s essentially a 15-20 year jump back in time. I didn’t have internet or a mobile phone in 1990, and my rights weren’t restricted based on not having those means of communications.More troubling I think is that Egypt and similar governments regularly impose restrictions on rights that aren’t setbacks equal to 20 years. They’re setbacks equal to 200 years.Having the internet doesn’t mean a lot if you don’t have the freedom to use it, or if your expression of speech is closeted.There are a lot of people, me included, who don’t take notice of these simple facts until one of these governments shuts down Twitter. A quick scan of the Wikipedia page on Egypt humans rights makes it pretty obvious that Egypt has bigger fish to fry in the civil liberties department than access to the net.http://en.wikipedia.org/wik…I realize that the argument of net proponents is that the net will open up these societies to civil liberties. But we have seen these countries retreat from modernity, into history, in the past (see Iran, 1979). They do not agree with us that progress is a foregone conclusion.Shutting down the net is a symptom, it’s not the disease.

    1. JLM

      Well played. Winner.

    2. Anon

      1990 was 31 years ago.

      1. Eparkerii

        2011 – 1990 = 21, at least on my calculator.

      2. fredwilson


  23. REBELista

    right -on.

  24. William Mougayar

    Fred- Did you disable “real-time updating” on the comment thread? It was useful, and I miss it. (time saver)

    1. fredwilson

      not intentionallymaybe the new disqus theme we are using here doesn’t support iti will check with daniel

  25. Sraliment

    There was an interview in BBC World radio this morning ( CET ) describing how one goes about turning off the internet in a country. Very interesting. This is the first time it”s been done in a country that large (both in population and GDP).

  26. LIAD

    Cutting communication is tame compared to other techniques used by despots to supress their people and prolong their regimes.I find it alarming that our western press has chosen to focus on the Internet and phone networks being turned off for 48 hours rather than the 30 years of brutal beatings, death squads, overt corruption and rampant poverty.I’m sure we can guess which the Egyptians themselves find more disturbing.

    1. Julien

      Mostly agree… but how would the world know about the beatings, death squads and corruption without communication? Forcing the people to silence is a second death for the ones who will be quickly forgotten!

      1. LIAD

        For sure.Cutting access to the Internet is a breach of civil liberties. Moreover the transparency it brings and light it helps emanate definitely causes these regimes to think twice before committing their more inhumane crimes.I was just trying to get across that on the gamut of atrocities that have befallen these people, the ‘closure’ of the Internet is probably not that high on the list.

      2. emk

        The world has always known about the “beatings, death squad and corruption” It has just chosen to ignore it. Mubarak has been very useful to the US and other western countries. So they have given him billions in military aid and outsourced torture to him in the war on terror.A few days without internet access in Egypt is no big deal compared to 30 yrs of tyranny!Where was the western outrage before?!emk

    1. Prokofy

      It’s good you geeks keep using this expression “the Internets” tongue-in-cheek to sound cool and all meme-like.What you don’t realize is that there is something cooking that is worse than a shutdown.That’s when a country like Russia just makes its own Internet, in its own language, with its own domains, with its own search, with its own government control, and that’s what people have to use. China is doing the same thing, building its own search. Once the search isn’t as free as Google, and people depend on it, they are owned thoroughly.We see how in every one of these authoritarian countries, legions of people come forward indignantly to support the government and attack dissidents on the Internet forums. They are called the “50 Cent Party” in China as they collect money to post against dissidents, from the government. In Russia, they don’t have to be paid, they do it out of actual enthusiasm — “the aggressively obedient majority” as Afanasyev called them.You have to realize all of these issues aren’t about “the Internets” at the end of the day, but people’s minds, separate from the technology, although affected by it. Meanwhile, the West is distracted from these “Internets” springing up outside of “the Internet” we think of being universal as free — distracted precisely by the kind of toys that Fred funds, even as the Russian mob takes over Facebook stock…

  27. awaldstein

    Fred…don’t knock your optimism nor your naivete.Optimism is alway naive in some fashion…but the driver of change against all odds. I’m with you on the power of technology and transparency to drive change.But there is always real pain in social change. From civil rights to I guess this week’s events. Unfortunately it seems historically necessary.

  28. AVillageOfHockey

    one day we might even use the power of the internet to solve problems ourselves :)2 billion people on the net + addictive social networking focused on charity + connect the user visually to the end result of their charitable contribution = save the world in 10 years

  29. Greg Satell

    Having experienced a revolution myself, I’d have to say that I’m not very surprised, nor do I think that turning off the Internet will be decisive.While many like to ennoble social media, communications technology have surprisingly little to do with whether a revolution succeeds or fails. What really matters are the small acts of courage of the people on the ground.I previously wrote about social media and Ukraine’s Orange Revolution. If you’re interested, you can find it here: http://www.digitaltonto.com…- Greg

    1. daryn

      Small acts of courage inspires other small acts of courage, and media, both traditional and social, help spread word of those acts. That’s why governments try to squelch and control them as much as possible.Cutting off other lines of communications follows the same line of reason. If you make hard for people to coordinate, you limit the opposition to small localized actions.It’s all about leverage.

  30. James Harradence

    Fred – I would suggest a very powerful, if understated book, by a British journalist: False Economy by Alan Beattie. It is a wonderful review of the drivers of economic development – there is surprisingly little discussion of technology or personal freedom. I won’t spoil it. As for politics trumping tech, people who are juiced by power go into politics, they always have, because political power is the trump suit of society…….FYI – Disqus does not allow Twitter sign in on iPad……….mild annoyance.

    1. fredwilson

      i hope it is available on kindle

  31. Tristan Louis

    Fred,I agree with your sentiment that such censorship is scary but disagree with your conclusion. My reason for doing so has largely to do with trends over time.Note that while the Egyptian government turned off mobile phones and the internet, it did not turn off landlines. The main reason, I suspect, is that the government needs access to those landlines.So the more a society becomes dependent on a technology and the more the leadership become dependent on that technology, the lower the chances that the government would push the killswitch.In other words, the more people are on the internet (I think it’s around 25% in Egypt while it’s over 60% in the US, though my numbers may be off) and the more government offices come to rely on the internet, the lower the chances a government will be tempted to turn it off.There is a corollary to this, though, which is that the more a society is on the internet, the more a government can snoop on its constitutents.So it cuts both ways. However, at some point in the future (maybe a generation, maybe longer), the fight for human rights will be given short wins leading to an eventual decisive one.The internet is a communication technology and people will use it to organize. The same happened for the fax machine (China, 1989) and text messaging (Georgia, 2005) so it’s only a question of time.

    1. fredwilson

      i hope you are right tristan

  32. Nate Quigley

    Love the idea of OPENMESH forum. Someone/ones out there will figure out how to build a NextGen “Voice of America”. Then it will need another set of someones to decide to fund it. Love idea of free countries pumping free bits in and out of repressive countries using satellites to hop the walls. The WiMax from ships idea at the OpenMesh link is interesting. Maybe there is a cheap receiver/transmitter system that could find it’s way inshore further down the road. Hide the routers in space or out at sea, democratize the rest of the transmission system using COTS stuff that could blend in and try to hide behind the walls.

    1. fredwilson

      i love the idea of mesh networksi wonder why they have not taken off

      1. bernardlunn

        I think this will give a boost to mesh networks and P2P. In the West we worry about small things like online privacy and the power that big Internet giants have with their server farms, but that is not a big enough “pain” to drive change. The idea that we cn “go dark” may drive change. Following this on #jan25 it was fascinating to watch people from all over the world help Egyptians hack together and protect a basic communications network. Anybody who can figure out how to do this with dialup lines will win big time. I think Skype is working on this.I am an optimist on all this, we are finally seeing real democatic, secular wave of change in Middle East. I lived in Beirut as a child in their “good old days” and have spoken to Afghanis who remember their good old days. They could return. Sadly, we (the West/America) have mostly been on the wrong side, the good stuff is happeing despite us.

      2. Doug Kersten

        Classic chicken and egg. You need enough people running the mesh network software to make it viable. Today’s smartphones all have wifi capability that could be used to create mesh networks but it would require someone with a large presence on phones to make it actually work. Someone like Twitter or Facebook for example. For mesh to be successful it will need it’s own killer app.The other part of this is that whatever standard is used has to be open. I order for mesh to be viable, everyone must be able to connect to the mesh. Facebook, Twitter, etc. gets it started and then everyone else builds on. The ultimate goal is that there are so many mesh clients out there that gaining control of one company (or a few) would not destroy the mesh.

  33. Aaron Klein

    I’m not willing to give up on that vision yet. We do need to see some big investments to advance the physics of satellite technology. Imagine a day when the government can’t shut down the internet because x% of the market is holding a smartphone that connects via a space-based network they can’t control?This would be a huge game changer in China and the Middle East.The days of totalitarian governments are numbered and technology is only accelerating the arrival of that wonderful day when the last one falls.

  34. knowledgenotebook

    “When something you have come to rely on is taken away from you, it is frightening.”. I agree 1000%.It’s simple WRONG and illegal to disable one’s Facebook account out of blue (no it’s not due to hacking, ToS is simply an excuse). It happened last August.

  35. Professor Bloom

    I am glad Mr. Wilson is learning the importance of national defense and that the Internet does not solve all issues. Perhaps now he may retract his earlier position to cut military spending and reduce our presence around the world in protecting democracy. I look forward to seeing him learn more from history – and hopefully in a positive way.I believe strongly that democracy will win in this case. I have spoken to many Egyptians over the last few weeks (before the uprising was clear) and they expressed concern over Mubarak and a clear willingness to spring into action.I believe our government will use the carrot and stick approach of allowing Mubarak to leave and save face, while telling him if he does not we will cut off our financial and military support. Bill Clinton is taking the public positions and Obama and H. Clinton are talking in private to Mubarak. As an unofficial adviser to certain government decision-makers in the financial sector, I feel comfortable in saying it is my belief this is happening.Professor Jack Bloom, Management and Finance Departments, Pace University.

    1. JLM

      We need to be careful what we wish for as Egypt and Mubarak have been a powerful stabilizing force in that part of the world.Shitheads? Yes, but OUR shitheads.Not in any way condoning or endorsing his brand of governance but just stating the obvious — his memory of the whippings that Israel put on Egypt has been a powerful force for comparative peace or what is called “peace” in that part of the world.America needs a strong foreign policy which serves American interests and which can be backed up with a bit of muscle if necessary.We have about $6B of exports annually, $2B of imports and a trade balance of $4B with Egypt. That’s not insignificant.If the Suez Canal is closed, the price of oil will skyrocket. It is as much symbolic as it is real.

      1. paramendra

        This thinking bothers me. Liberty now, liberty also for Egyptians. Mubarak has not been a force for peace. Autocrats never are. Oppression is not peace.

        1. JLM

          I think you are speaking from the perspective of the individual and I am speaking from the perspective of the relations between nations and the geopolitical realities of the region.In that region we have Israel and oil. It is difficult to ascertain who is more challenging at times.Egypt has been at war several times with Israel, the last time memorably almost bringing the USSR and the US into a head to head conflict.The peace that was built after those wars has allowed Egyptian and Israeli soldiers to live out the balance of their days in peace. It has saved lives. This is the only basis upon which I suggest the Mubarak regime has contributed to stability in the region.On an individual basis, I am in favor of an American style democracy on everyone’s doorstep. But is that realistic just now?Sic Semper Tyrannis! <<< the motto of the Commonwealth of Virginia

          1. paramendra

            I appreciate your position better now. But my answer is yes, Egypt is ready for it now.

    2. Matt Grosso

      I have to disagree with Mr Bloom here and above. Revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt and other middle east countries aren’t happening because of our military spending. I hypothesize that they are finally happening because the people of those countries are realizing that their futures are in their own hands.I studied the politics of Iran and other middle east countries a bit in college as a lowly undergrad, and one key thing I took away is the amazing degree to which people in those countries attributed almost everything to the CIA and the US. Given that in our heyday of post WWII relative international power the CIA or the British before them really could and often did waltz in and overthrow elected governments we did not like, this was not an irrational bias.I think that the clear incompetence of the Iraq occupation, the emergence of China, the economic decline of the US, the election of Obama, the emergence of a generation of youth with internet access and therefore a broader perspective on international realities, and finally the introduction of a less confrontational US diplomacy have all allowed the people of the middle east to see things differently.Thanks in part to the internet that spread awareness of these developments it is more difficult for a citizen of [Tunis,Egypt,Jordan,Sudan] to blame the continued kleptocracy of $this.tyrant on the connivance of the CIA with a straight face. As a result, people in those countries now know that they can overthrow their government and neither the US nor any other super power has the muscle to install a preferred successor. Their future is up to them and they know it.Of course I agree we can and should and probably are trying to help with personal carrots and sticks for $this.tyrant and those individual level efforts may make an important difference. That’s got nothing at all to do with moving US military spending 10-20% one direction or another though.The internet may not solve all issues but it sure helps to highlight repression, organize resistance, and expose repression. More is better and Fred Wilson is absolutely right to try and influence everyone he can to help make the internet harder to shut off.

    3. fredwilson

      why do you call me Mr Wilson?nobody calls me that

      1. Rob K

        Dude- That’s my father.

        1. fredwilson

          he’s talking to me like i am dennis the menace’s neighbor

  36. daryn

    The first time I visited Myanmar (in 1995) I was somewhat surprised by their ‘everyday’ control of communications. They took the battery from my cell phone at immigration. All “modems” had to be registered with the government. No direct international dialing – all international calls were made through the operator, and everyone knew that their calls were being monitored and recorded.My mom’s generation all shrugged this off – they hadn’t grown up with that much communication or media technology, so in some ways they didn’t know much better, it was just how things were. The kids, however, had been exposed to enough outside media to know what they were missing.The next time I went back (’99), the kids had figured out their loopholes. TXT-ing in code. Getting their news from decrypted satellite tv. One guy had satellite internet through a Thai ISP, though I’m sure that was seriously illegal. The government’s most powerful weapon was fear and propaganda. Access to international media weakened that significantly. Unfortunately, guns, tanks, and physical intimidation are harder to subvert.

    1. Dale Allyn

      Daryn, during my last visits there they seized the mobile phones at immigration, returned at departure. The price of such phones inside the country was many times the price in Thailand, so that factored as well. I haven’t been there in the last couple of years and I understand that policy is a bit different now, at least for business travelers or NGOs, etc. (I have friends who go every month, as well as contacts who are Burmese citizens who travel to BKK regularly.)The control the government maintains over the people there is very unfortunate.

      1. daryn

        As all Burmese I know would say: policies constantly change, but nothing ever changes. Official cost of anything on paper there is high, and everything is accomplished through favors, bartering, and the black market.I likely got special treatment thanks to some family connections – but I too haven’t been in years.

  37. MouradZ

    It’s why the Satellit Web Connexion Technologies must be developped all around the world and become the cheapest way to connect to Internet, make calls, send texts and sms, twitt, post to blog !Yes let move to this and influence UNO to make that universal…Or lets wait for Wireless technos like WiMax or more…

  38. JLM

    The larger issue here is that the Middle East is aflame with unrest — revolution more aptly put — under way in Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon. New governments have risen to power in Iraq.Iran is a tinderbox. Palenstine and Lebanon are war zones. Lebanon is OK now but it is just a matter of months before a resurgent Iranian funded effort blossoms.The Israelis are girding their loins and are just about ready to take out the Iranians nuclear nightmare. Always remember that the Israelis are 2-0 in knocking out nuclear reactors.In every one of these countries, regimes have been in power for 25-30 years with not a semblance of democracy in evidence. They are the old regimes clinging to power like European royalty of the past.The yearnings of their people are bubbling to the surface and modern communications have provided an accelerant. The US government is afraid to pick sides and clings instead to a set of liberal feel good, do nothing policies.While many of these regimes are totally unsympathetic, patently corrupt and despotic, the US has had a working relationship with them and has at times been their enablers.Now we have a government which is seemingly unaware of former US involvement and is prepared to make public pronouncements of the “play nice” dialect. This is not leadership.These despotic regimes have been exporters of mischief because they have not wanted that mischief to be visited upon themselves. While Saudi Arabia has the lowest level of apparent violence, it is the greater financier of terrorist “take out”. Take your terrorism anywhere but Saudi Arabia and they will fund it.What is unspoken in this dialog is the impending intervention of the Russians and the Chinese. Mark my words, the Chinese will be in the middle of this mess — to secure and expand their sources of oil — within 6 months.This is exactly why the world needs a powerful and capable US both from the perspective of a well thought out foreign policy — bowing to folks is not a foreign policy — and a strong military which when unleashed is simply feared.The price of oil will reach $150 the day the Suez Canal is blocked.

    1. Dave Pinsen

      “The larger issue here is that the Middle East is aflame with unrest — revolution more aptly put — under way in Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon. New governments have risen to power in Iraq.”You mention one country that has a new government. That happens to be the one where we forcibly got rid of the old government. Time will tell what happens in Egypt, but there don’t appear to be any revolutions on deck in the other three countries you mention. Hezbollah was the dominant power in Lebanon and will remain so. Yemen’s government has had little control over its hinterlands and that remains the case. Jordan’s soi disant monarchy seems as firmly entrenched as ever.”The Israelis are girding their loins and are just about ready to take out the Iranians nuclear nightmare.”Apparently, the Stuxnet worm, which appears to have been a joint U.S.-Israeli creation, has already set the Iranian nuclear project back a few years.”The price of oil will reach $150 the day the Suez Canal is blocked.”Maybe we’ll let the British and French take it back next time.

      1. JLM

        Two months ago I would have agreed with you completely.Today I see the seemingly bloodless coup in Lebanon — an affair instigated by the Iranians through their minions — and the replacement of the government with a group that intends to start another war with Israel as very troubling.I fear that the riots in Jordan are just starting. Jordan is a very strong American ally.Yemen is a government in name only. And there is unrest in Yemen.Two months ago there was not much going on — Tunisia maybe — and today there are embers being coaxed into fire across the entire region.Iraq is beginning to look a model of stability.

    2. LIAD

      hizbullah affected a bloodless coup in lebanon a couple of weeks ago with close to zero mainstream press attention.i feel for obama. the US has been allied, supported and propped up these regimes for decades through the strategy of ‘better the devil you know’ – and now when the shit hits the fan they have to make decisions where they’re screwed whatever they do.curious how you would handle the egyptian crisis knowing that should mubarak go the vacuum would likely be filled by the muslim brotherhood, and i don’t think they have the US on their christmas card list.

      1. JLM

        There was a day when the CIA had a contingency list — a succession list really — of each and every friendly and unfriendly ruler in the world which identified those in power, those in opposition and the next likely guy in line should the feces hit the fan.Sounds logical right?Hell, we even advance a candidate or two during the last century. Diem, Chile, etc.That is why it is so disconcerting to see us surprised repeatedly.I think there is a chance that Mubarak could survive but the recent utterances of the administration make it unlikely he will be there in the long term. I think you have to go w/ the devil you know rather than the devil you don’t, so I would prop Mubarak up and pray for the best.Foreign intrigue, including the rent to own program for foreign despots, requires a bit of unseemliness from time to time.The likely successor will have a few years trying to understand things in any event.Egypt is key to maintaining peace w/ Israel. In addition, we have a meaningful trade relationship with Egypt.In the world of foreign policy, we must hold our nose and do what is right for US interests even when it is revolting to our own democratic standards. This isn’t bean bag or the right fork w/ shellfish. Make a mistake and whole Middle East could go up in flames.

        1. William Mougayar

          I’ve tweeted today that Obama needs a Reagan “Tear down this wall” moment to message Mubarak and other aspiring democracies. Sitting on the fence is not helpful.There are two types of issues in the middle-east: 1) un-democratic royalties/dictatorships, 2) Iranian influences.Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen’s situation are part of #1. Lebanon, Syria, Hezb are part of #2.The #2 guys will take advantage of turmoils in #1 countries to extend their influences. Nothing can stop more of #1 to happen. If #2 is dealt with at the source, all of their cronies will be automatically weakened.

          1. JLM

            There has probably never been a more propitious time to deal with Iran than today.Unfortunately, the administration has four wars underway — Iraq, Afghanistan, terror and the top 1%.Keep your eye on Syria as they are the only ones capable of independent action or action in direct concert w/ Iran.

          2. fredwilson

            i’m in the top 1% and i am not at war with the administration

          3. JLM

            Get in the fight because they are at war with you!

          4. fredwilson

            no they aren’tthey are just trying to make ends meet

          5. kidmercury

            you can tell yourself the administration is at war with the top 1% if you’d like. sadly, the facts surrounding income inequality, the impact of inflationary monetary policy, and who soetoro appoints (GE and chase bank executives) do not support you.also, 9/11 was an inside job.

          6. JLM

            The administration is at war with the job producing segment of our country. The policies and the results speak for themselves.Income inequality is the result of personal motivation and effort. There is no good reason to limit the productivity of the most productive — job creating — segment of society because the wise investment of their assets in a risk market results in their making money on their money.The better public policy would be to stop redistributing money and help the lowest segments of society out of their lot in life through job creation.Inflationary monetary policy is focused on the US Treasury and its necessity to repay huge amounts of money. They want to borrow dollars and pay back dimes.Jeffrey Immelt is a salaryman — a damn good salaryman mind you, and Obama’s designated “go to” business bitch.

          7. kidmercury

            “Income inequality is the result of personal motivation and effort.”no, it is primarily the result of inflationary monetary policy, which transfers wealth from lower classes to upper ones via inflation. ergo, rising stock market, rising gas prices.look at all the metrics on income inequality from 1971. look at money suply, the stock market, gas prices, savings rate. the evidence is clear.Immelt is the CEO of GE, leader of hte military industrial complex. inflationary moentary policy is needed to finance the military industrial complex. this is simply more fascism — rule by corporations and military. fascism breeds income inequality as military activity is a cost center and must be financed via inflation. war always coincides with inflation, as a cursory review of history proves.

          8. JLM

            Let’s agree to disagree.Lower classes are wage earners.The richest folks in America are investors.Their CF streams are not the same.The comparison begins to break down when one realizes that the lower classes have no assets to invest.That is why a “better” job is so critical to their near term fortunes.

          9. kidmercury

            we can agree to disagree, just know that you are disagreeing with thefacts. it is like disagreeing with 2+2=4.look at how much lower income people work now versus the 70s. twoincome households working fulltime now have less purchasing power thansingle income households back before nixon fully abolished the goldstandard in 1971 and money supply inflation was let out of the bottle.the “investors” you claim are creating jobs are enjoying a risingstock market while U6 unemployment is at 16.7%, which is probablyunder-reported. clearly, “investors” are not getting paid to producejobs. they are getting paid to bid up the cost of living and gamble inthe stock market.the lower classes have no assets to invest because monetary inflationincreases the cost of living, making savings harder. this excessprinted money goes into the stock market and trickles down from there.monetary inflation is thus a wealth transfer from lower classes toupper ones.people can deny it all they want, it will not change the facts.

          10. markslater

            two types of issues?the religion of islam not an issue?

          11. William Mougayar

            That’s covered in #2. Islam is not an issue. Extremism derived from radical Islamic tendencies is.

        2. paramendra

          “I think you have to go w/ the devil you know rather than the devil you don’t, so I would prop Mubarak up and pray for the best.”Ridiculous. It is not for the US to decide who should rule Egypt. It is for the people of Egypt to decide. Have respect.

          1. JLM

            Whomever the US throws its support behind has the highest probability of emerging victorious. Let’s hope that the US backs the guy who is the best for Egypt.The US is going to act in support of US interests.To observe the reality of that fact is in no way disrespectful of anything.I am not championing an outcome, I am simply making an observation.I am all in favor of national self determination but when a country does not have an iota of experience with democracy, it is very difficult to suggest that this is the logical or default outcome.Be real.

          2. markslater

            there is a massive gulf between promoting change and it ending in a democracy. We are change agents in the modern era, not practicians.look at the end of the cold warWell the result is that 30 or 40 robber barons plundering the great bears national resources, while the generals were carving up the politburo.where are we today? roman owns Chelsea, his mate is in jail for talking back to the ex KGB dictator who will likely attempt some “life presidency” – corruption is off the charts, and the average Russian person is arguably less represented, has less access to the right to self determination, and my beautiful London is full of fat ugly Whore-mongering oligarchs who know crap about football but who sit around acting like the $5 B they have stolen – they actually deserve.in the words of renton “its a shiiiite state of affairs…”we should be alot more careful not of what we wish for , but how it pans out.

          3. JLM

            The Law of Unintended Consequences reigns supreme.Your observations about what happened after the fall of the USSR is quite insightful.Perhaps we would have been better with the more “orderly” world of the Communists? Perhaps.

          4. markslater

            well i was being a bit tongue in cheek obviously.take a trip to the hotel du cap in antibes this summer – you’ll see what i mean.you can take the <fill in=”” the=”” blank=””> out of <fill in=”” the=”” blank=””> and then reverse the phrase.The way i see it – the Russian people should own the DST position in facebook – even a cursory look at their source of capital would validate this.

          5. JLM

            You have touched upon one of my most favorite places and experiences in the whole world.In the early 1980s, fresh from an encounter with the pay window and the dollar as strong as an acre of garlic, I spent about 6 months in the S of France with my lovely wife including a month at the Hotel du Cap.In the same room as JFK and Jackie, mind you. The damn dollar was STRONG!This was before kids mind you.We lived like hedonists — out until dawn at the casino, ate at the Hotel Carlton and the Eden Roc, slept to 3:00 PM and then got up and had scrambled eggs in the afternoon on the terrace. Bit of suntanning. Ran 5 miles and repeat.It was heaven.

          6. markslater

            it truly is a beautiful part of the world.but i kid you not – the scene around the pool at edenroc in july is to behold. take vigo moteneson out of eastern promises, add silicon, sunglasses and cocaine. stir.its tradition of being a cash only place has attracted….well you get my drift. i’ll be back that way in june – i see if i can snap you a pic for posterity πŸ˜‰

          7. paramendra

            The US is a state, but it is also the oldest democracy. And the ideal of democracy has to be defined to be part of the US’ interests.

    3. paramendra

      JLM. Please stick to business issues. It is amazing to me how not in tune you are with what is going on in the streets of Cairo. This is Liberty calling.

      1. fredwilson

        nobody should or will “stick to business” here at AVCi don’t necessarily agree with JLM on this either but i totally welcome his opinionwe are talking about freedom hereand freedom of speech and being able to speak your mind is not only welcome here but expected and celebrated here

        1. kidmercury

          one of the reasons i am a fredland patriot!

        2. paramendra

          I maybe did not word it right. True. All AVC people talking about anything and everything is the way to go. I guess what I was getting as is JLM has been the top commenter at AVC in terms of the quality of what he has said over a long period of time. But that quality is not matched at all when it comes to his political views in relation to what is going on in Egypt.

      2. JLM

        Having been in the liberty business myself for a few years, I am perplexed as to what I have said that is perceived by you as not being supporting of the “…yearnings of the people…” in opposition to “…unsympathetic, patently corrupt and despotic…” regimes.I am in favor of all men living in freedom. I am opposed to despots of all stripes. And I have a bit of skin in that game myself.I am not in favor of a foreign policy which is based upon Mary Poppins or the idea that a country that has never known a day of democracy is going to somehow default to a democratic method of governance.I fear that the frying pan — however hot it may become — is much preferred to the fire.When one looks over the horizon on this matter, it is difficult to see anything but turmoil, economic disaster (price of oil) and international mischief (Russia and China).The second the game is “on”, you have to start thinking about the last 2 minutes of the contest.I see a very bad potential outcome.

        1. markslater

          trues thing you have said”I am not in favor of a foreign policy which is based upon Mary Poppins or the idea that a country that has never known a day of democracy is going to somehow default to a democratic method of governance.”this is what i fear more than anything.

        2. paramendra

          I see a great potential outcome. After Egypt, Saudi Arabia.

  39. Matt Grosso

    As entrepreneurs and citizens, we don’t deserve hope or fear without action.”I don’t believe in hope without endeavor. I don’t believe in the hopeof change, unless we take action to make it so.” Aung Sun Suu Kyi as reported by Judy Williams in her fantastic ted talk.In 2004 I was distracted by our political situation at the time and torn with hope and fear by the news all day. Only after I volunteered politically on saturdays was I able to get back the focus I needed on the other 6 days a week starting our company at the time. I had the words “no hope no fear” tattooed on my arm, not because I was despondent but because I needed to always remember that hope and fear were spectator emotions.I just watched an Egyptian man of about 50 or 60 tell a camera that he was not afraid, he was sacrificing himself for his children and grand children’s future. He didn’t look afraid or hopeful, just engaged, almost exultant to be doing something finally. Any choices I’ve every made pale in comparison to what the people of Burma, China, Iran, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Sudan have faced.Keeping that man in mind, I don’t deserve the luxury of hope or fear for my country or anyone else’s unless I am doing something about it. There are small things I can do without distracting from building my business, like donating to the ACLU and the EFF, and reguarly writing to my senators to tell them I don’t want the government to have powers like an internet kill switch. I haven’t done that enough lately and I need to and will do more. Thanks to Fred for doing something about it by calling us to action.Its important to note that we as a group have built and are building the tools used by both governments and citizens of the world. We need to keep in mind our responsibilities to the rest of the world where the stakes are very high when we decide whether or not to invest our capital and effort and our selves in things like deep packet inspection tools (please don’t), firewall censorship services (please don’t), recording every ip address that ever used our sites (please don’t), keeping our passwords secure (please do), taking our users privacy and security into account when we build things (please do) and focusing on businesses that build value rather than take it (please do).I’m going to call my senators and congresswoman on monday, then I’m going to get back to work.

  40. Denis

    Fred, you’d be surprised to know that it’s easier to shutdown the Internet than you think when the external gateways are controlled by an oligopoly.There were presidential elections in Evgeny Morozov’s and my Motherland of Belarus on December 19. The current president had been in power since 1994 and had been rigging all elections throughout his term. USDOS has been referring to him as “the last dictator in Europe” for quite some time now.In the past years, main opposition sites would be just DDoSed on election days. This year, the government-owned ISP monopoly did something more sneaky: they blocked port 443. That port is the default for handling HTTPS traffic, and blocking it makes it impossible to log into most websites and makes the Internet essentially “read-only”.Thanks to Google’s Transparency Report, we can see the mid-day sharp drop and then the restoration of the traffic level: http://www.google.com/trans

    1. fredwilson

      it is amazing that he gets away with that

      1. Denis

        Well, all authoritarian forms of government can get away with many things just because they answer to nobody. It is just like the majority owner of a company is also the CEO and he mistreats the staff & customers and nobody can do anything about it besides leaving.I’m actually a bit surprised that you don’t know much about the situation in Belarus since I remember you mentioning some of your portfolio companies have development shops there.

    2. Prokofy

      What’s important to see about these scare stories is that even the Belarusian KGB is forced to turn the Internet back on, and forced to stop hijacking opposition sites or DDOSing them after awhile because they need the Internet as an easy way to track people’s dissent. Otherwise they’d have to send out more toptuny and they don’t have that much manpower.Morozov said he was “130 kilometers from the action” during the events Dec. 19. Now he’s 4,500 kilometers away. Like you.

  41. Gregory Magarshak

    It’s amazing how far the internet’s come in just over a decade. In 1994, this was being said by TV anchors about it:http://www.youtube.com/watc…and today, it is recognized around the world as an indispensable medium for communication, self-expression, source of information, and more. As never before, we have a medium where people can be heard from anywhere in the world, where content travels quickly, and thus we are appalled and take notice when a country shuts off the internet connections to the outside world.It is a sign of progress that communication on our planet has become so much better. I would rather the world take notice at the internet being shut off, than at much worse things. Imagine wars in today’s world, where both sides have the internet, and the rest of the world can learn what’s going on. Imagine a feedback loop from citizens to the governments, helping the governments do a better job. This will all become better and better, until wars and political corruption will be minimized, through better communication.Until then, sadly, we will continue to have what we have always had, in various places in the world. All I can hope for is that things are getting better. As for Egypt, let’s see whether another government is democratically elected there soon.

  42. Joe Yevoli

    I just read an article about how some of the Egyptians were using old school dial up modems to connect.Obviously less than ideal, but necessary since apparently the government couldn’t cut the telephone connections without limiting their own ability to communicate.From the article:”While there’s no Egyptian ISP that will allow internet access to Egyptian citizens, other countries will, meaning any Egyptian citizen with long-distance calling capabilities can break out their old school 56k modem and dial-up an ISP in another country.”

    1. fredwilson

      i saw that on twitter. i love the unwillingness to accept the shutdown

      1. davidgeller

        It’s easy to re-establish “internet” connectivity on a small scale. It’s really hard to do it at levels that support the traffic required of a town, city or country in crisis.Old-school modems work until, as Joe noted, the phone company turns off service. The Ham radio community can run data tunnels – and do. There’s also satcom gear owned by businesses and media outlets.Interestingly, I read that the ISP that services the Egyptian Stock Market is still online. People that were customers of that ISP continued to have connectivity when other services began falling.

      2. Prokofy

        It’s like your unwillingness to conceive this as anything but some worldwide Armageddon now about to be unleashed on your business by Obama, Fred. It’s like that.

      3. Joe Yevoli

        Ha, yea it’s awesome… People will always find a way to get what they want!

  43. Max Smolev

    About Internet’s immunity — no, internet was not designed to be immune to this. Internet can continue to function when someone prevents some of the nodes from functioning, and it still does — shutting down all of Egypt (which is now just “gypt”?) didn’t impact anyone else as long as they don’t try to connect to site in said Egypt.In this case the government said “shut it down” and practically _all_ providers said “Yes, Sir, *click*”. They didn’t try to resist. They simply followed their business interest. And while some citizens could try to pull out their old modems and dial-up into other countries, should that become a widespread phenomenon country’s phone providers would be given an order to shut down international calling too. And they would comply. Heck, if one of those killswitch legislations pass in the United States exactly the same thing can happen here, just in the name of “cybersecurity”, as it will be in provider’s business interest to comply with a request to stop connections to, say, China.In grand schema of things Internet is mostly irrelevant. People exchange information no matter what, Internet just makes it faster and more convenient.

  44. Steve Holden

    Cyberutopianism isn’t unlike the 1960’s hippie belief that enough love would solve all the world’s problems. SO now we know a) either the theory was wrong, or b) we just didn’t have enough love.That doesn’t mean we should stop trying, or that the human values behind such noble attempts are wqrong. So far Morozov seems cynical to me. The real issue is the impedance mismatch between cyberutopianism and American foreign policy. Talk about mixed messages there: we want the rest of the world to be democratic and free, but by the way we want an Internet Kill Switch in our country.Of course, such a measure would only ever be used for good …

    1. JLM

      I tried to tell some of those Catholic school girls back in the 1960s that there was a sexual revolution going but they were not buying it.

    2. Prokofy

      Can you silly people grasp that the Internet Kill Switch concept isn’t to turn off your Internet and make it unfree because the people wielding it are democratically elected and accountable, and not dictators, and would use this power to protect the Internet from hostile takeover.Or you’d like Al Qaeda to run your Internet instead of Obama?

      1. fredwilson

        i don’t want anyone to run the internet

  45. Justin Francis

    What I find much more frightening than anything that happened in Egypt is that Yuri Millner is offering to invest $150k in any YC company. The bubble is back.

    1. kidmercury

      bubbles milner is creating high prices. the people in egypt — and the other places where there are riots — are doing so largely due to high food prices.maybe the only real problem in the world is high prices.

  46. Professor Bloom

    The drama in Egypt is unfolding today very closely to what I predicted a few hours ago. Please see my earlier blog post. Thanks everyone.Professor Bloom, Pace University

    1. markslater

      what that democracy will triumph? gimme a break.Change will triumph – whether Egypt ends in what we would term a reasonably sophisticated democracy is a long shot at best.Your cart is way before your horse.

  47. Professor Bloom

    Check out http://www.nytimes.com to follow the action. Democracy will soon triumph. This was helped along by Obama’s Cairo speech, as well as his continuation of the war on Al Queda in Afghanistan and ending our engagement in Iraq. The only real obstacle to real peace is now in Iran. This was well predicted by Harvard Professor Wilson in The Clash of Civilizations (1998) which explained why it would happen and gave some ideas to win this war against extremists and tyrants. It is also a guide to geo-political issues with other cultures and regions. I am so proud to be an American today. We are a great force for good in the world. We make mistakes and have many problems, but today is a day we can rightly claim some credit for advancing democracy in a largely peaceful way. Most people in America don’t understand it, but our policy makers by and large do have a process and plan for helping our world to be a better place, and we always stand ready to help.

    1. Dave Pinsen

      How long has ElBaradei been considered an opposition figure? Something seems odd about this.

      1. Prokofy

        Hehe bingo.It would be good if he took over though, as he could be a sort of Roza Otunbayeva-like interrim figure trusted by the international community. They love him at the UN and other international agencies.BTW, the liberal press keeps saying he didn’t get along with Bush because he didn’t want to deal with Iraq by invasion. But it’s important to recall that he also didn’t want to put sufficient pressure on Hussein to have UN inspections, either.If the Muslim Brotherhood backs ElBaradei, either they’re faking it or he’s faking it. They’re not really moderates and once he looks at the options he’s not going to reform much.

        1. markslater

          why is it that we think that being “great promoters of change” is the honey pot?

        2. Dave Pinsen

          The dog that isn’t barking in the news about Egypt is the status of that secular reformer guy whose been in prison on trumped-up charges since the last pseudo-election. I thought he was supposed to be the face of the opposition. Now El Baradei swoops in.

    2. JLM

      “I am so proud to be an American today. We are a great force for good in the world.”I will be glad to tell my 92 year old Dad who fought in 3 wars that you have finally come aboard. He will be thrilled. Just thrilled.

    3. Prokofy

      Much of what you’re writing makes no sense but I don’t have time to debate except the main point — the Cairo speech. This was in fact denounced by Egyptian democrats because it didn’t condemn brutality in their country and didn’t in fact make common cause with them. The Cairo speech was a failed Obama policy that he had to start correcting 6 months later when he realized that the world’s despots weren’t impressed with him going around beating his chest and saying America is guilty — they already thought that and it doesn’t make them get into buddy mode and say “gosh, let’s all work together to be better”. The Cairo speech is an example of bad policy from the U.S. that the demonstrators are chanting against in fact.

    4. markslater

      how exactly will “democracy triumph”. Define a democracy please and then apply it to any number of attempts to successfully impose one in the last 30 or 40 years.It requires a certain “will of the people” to succeed – not just getting change as in whats going on in egypt right now – but implementing change -who wants to bet that the small “implementation” part will fall on its head?What happened in america and what made america great is NOT a blueprint for what happens in other parts of the world practically speaking. We are pretty good at promoting change – but fail miserably on its implementation.

  48. ngs24

    I think it’s interesting that you say that COICA might interfere with your business interests. If your business interests are legitimate you should have nothing to worry about. COICA will only take down sites that have decimated the content industries and cost America over 1.5 million jobs. As long as you’re not dealing in pirated or counterfeit goods. I’m a songwriter and my business interests lie in the fact that my works can’t freely be stolen from me without punishment as is the case right now with the so called ‘open’ Internet. We are quickly moving into a time where a majority of business will be conducted online instead of the exchange of physical goods. Now more than ever our government needs to reinterate what makes are economy the greatest in the world – the fact that ideas and innovation are worth money. This has nothing to do with free speech as is the guise that many Internet pirates hide behind.

    1. fredwilson

      let’s say that one copyrighted song is uploaded by a user to youtubeis it appropriate to take down the entire youtube web service because of that?no fucking wayCOICA is like using a nuclear bomb to address a petty theft

    2. Prokofy

      I’m glad you’ve taken on Fred on this issue, and his answer is lame and a fake edgecase.COICA doesn’t call for “shutting down the entire youtube service” over one song.Fred doesn’t have an answer except this sillyness because he, too, relies on the “California business model” — build platforms and services that enable uploading of user data, regardless of whether users own the rights, sit back and let them populate the service and click on the ads, then react to any DMCA notices or lawsuits as they come, drawing them out as long as possible so that only the deepest of pockets can effectively get takedowns. Works great for Google on Youtube.

      1. fredwilson

        it is not just a california business model. we’ve brought it to NYC. and it is taking over the city

  49. ryan singer

    I’m scared too… Not after my friend has told me that the cia has a large stake in google.. Not after another friend told me that bill gates parents founded planned parenthood and he wants to control population growth.it doesn’t surprise me and I don’t care to much about him anyways. He had been listed on Bilderbergs website as one of the guests along with many other powerful people who meet annually. one if my friends in italy tells me of other groups with power… For some reason people with power or groups of people with power don’t scare me until a smaller country does it and its effective. now I’m scared. I don’t know why it is this way…

  50. matthughes

    Regarding the comment that the “cyberutopian view is naive”… My feeling is that it’s sometimes really difficult for good people to truly understand evil.It just is.When you hope and expect the best for your family, community, country and the world we live in, it’s difficult to comprehend people and idealogy that would seek to limit, if not destroy it.

    1. fredwilson

      yup. woke up thinking about that and ended up blogging about it

  51. vruz

    The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.It’s been bad, but in a way it’s a sign of hope, if the guys in power are so afraid it means that they think it might possibly work.And in the wise words of Donald Rumsfeld: “Weakness is provocative”.Time to double down on freedom.

  52. Wil

    So long as the government controls who can put copper and fiber in the ground and who is allowed to use the electromagnetic spectrum, it’s going to be just as easy for this to happen in the US as abroad. People may complain, but in times of “war” all it takes is a few telco executives willing to break the law at the government’s behest. Congress has repeatedly demonstrated willingness to give “retroactive immunity” for civil rights violations; witness the outcome of warrantless wiretapping debate.The FCC had a real chance to open up the telco oligopoly with the 700Mhz spectrum auctions – instead, we got more of the same. The conspiracy theorist in me thinks this was by design – a truly open internet, without a kill switch (congressionally-mandated or via a good ol’ boy network) is too big a threat to too many interests.

  53. Rahul Deodhar

    I think that makes your innovations all the more important.If someone is able to slip some information out, I think twitter will make it heard better and faster. I think such innovations give those inside the walls an opportunity to communicate.

  54. Dogeye

    I might be too busy to protest but if the government cut off my Internet I’d be leading the charge for regime change.

  55. rosshill

    The lack of Internet is uniting people who usually fight (religion etc), together as one for freedom.

  56. Terry

    It is naive to think that we’ve reached cyberutopia, but the ideals are achievable they just take work. We need to start building our own networks outside of ISPs and governments and share our resources. Check out theconnective.net. Personally I’m starting to learn about wireless networks and how I can build one in my own city. I want the next internet to be truly decentralized and citizen owned. Help us get there.

  57. JoeRa

    Never mind the government. The RIAA and MPAA want to be able to cut off your internet too – they want the ISPs to cut people off if the **AA accuse them of file sharing. No internet for you until you can prove that you are innocent!

    1. fredwilson

      yupcoica is bullshit

      1. Dale Allyn

        I’m a supporter of strong copyright laws and mechanisms to protect creators of copyrightable material (I’m a producer of such material myself who experiences unauthorized use often). This is separate from my views on patents and how they should apply (or not) to software, which is another subject. ;)Having studied COICA a bit it looks to be another fine example of political pandering and knee-jerk policy making without regard for the fundamental intentions of the internet. Ironically, part of this legislation is founded on principles that are equally poorly applied to guns, but I’ll refrain from my pro 2nd Amendment rant here.The EFF does a good job of pointing out that copyright infringement laws are already in place and can be effective if properly administered and adjudicated. There is no need for draconian measures which pander to the motion picture industry (and RIAA among others) to be put in place which would completely disrupt the more crucial strength of the internet, which is to share information and knowledge globally so that ALL may benefit. One should not gloss over the last half of the previous sentence. It really matters. The internet is not just an entertainment device for cheapskates to share bootlegged songs. It is a fabric providing crucial knowledge and experience to people around the world in ways which many will never appreciate. It’s changing lives in an important and positive way and we must be strong enough to protect that – even if a few of us experience a bit of revenue leakage from copyright abuse.Sure, the originators, the creators of content should have say in how their materials are used or shared. But “locking a domain” at the direction of the Attorney General is not an example of good judgement. Putting vigorous support behind existing copyright laws and hosting rules is all that is required.(guess I got a bit carried away here ;)Edit: typo

  58. Bosdilooda

    Don’t want to nitpick here but I just can’t help myself…> This week, when I read that Egypt’s government > was able to completely turn off the Internet in country, > it stunned me. The Internet was designed to be > immune to such things.Nope, it wasn’t. It was designed to be decentralized and to withstand a massive outtake of it’s infrastructure and servers, hence the IP protocol is used to route traffic… From Internet’s point of view, Egyptians just dropped a single segment out off the Internet and the Internet is still working fine….

  59. J. Pablo FernΓ‘ndez

    The internet is quite different in the rest of the world than in the US, as in the rest of the world we connect t US servers. If you kill connectivity at the frontiers in the US, you wouldn’t notice much of a difference, while in other countries you lose Facebook, Twitter and almost all communication channels.I suppose it’s very important to have decentralized systems, like Diaspora, Jabber, etc.; but I doubt they could still be run inside Egypt. If they were useful they would be shut down too.Maybe the only answer is mesh networking.

  60. Chris Voss

    I think its a huge wake up call for us to protect what should be our free speech rights here in America. Evidently even China is blocking Twitter-like sites from sharing Egypt information.I wrote a blog post The New Weapon of Government Revolution is Social Media and a Mobile Phone http://bit.ly/fTgqd8 and how quite possibly a free internet and mobile broadcasting should be protected as strongly as gun ownership.We need to push to support our freedoms as more governments will be running in fear of this new freedom’s power.Chris

  61. Guest

    slightly off topic, but still connected to the issue. The Egyptian government banned twitter, youtube, google services and sms first. So can we say email as a mass communication platform is dead(although I agree gmail is part of google services that was banned in the first wave). They later on of course switched off entire internet. The other thing of course is that entire internet needs to be blocked and it is not enough to block just facebook,twitter and google services, if you want to make an attempt at controlling your population. So China’s censorship will fail and in order to really control their population, they will need to block the entire internet, but blocking internet is of course trying to shoot yourself in the brain I suppose

  62. Prokofy

    I’m glad you’re having this epiphany, Fred, but you’re coming to some of the wrong conclusions, and not grasping some of the wider story.Most people in the world in fact live without the Internet in the way you understand it. There are more people *without* the Internet saturating their lives than with it.In Russia, only 30 percent of the people access the Internet.I’ll tell you something even more dramatic: in Turkmenistan, 2.4 million people had cell phone service through Russia’s MTS company — which they used for phone calls but more importantly for Internet — it was better than the state-owned alternative which has only 310,000 customers. The government blocks the Internet.On December 21, the Turkmen government simply shut down MTS — depriving more than half of their population of cell and Internet service. 2.4 million people! And a month later, they *still don’t have it back on*. And nobody but me and perhaps one other person wrote about this and cared about it.In Egypt, the Internet was not entirely turned off — they kept the provider serving the stock market on, that’s for sure — and was put back on the next day. Yes, they are blocking it. Yes, they are closing down Al Jazeera. But your fears are exaggerated — and meanwhile, you don’t see other things far worse — like half a country’s population living a month without phone or Internet. Why? Because it wasn’t about America, which you, like most of the wired global left, think is still at the center of the universe/metaverse.So your context is wrong, but so are your conclusions. Because you next then jump to a technological — and false — assumption that the Obama Administration’s “kill switch” program is somehow about “harming you and your business”.I’m sorry, but that’s just plain self-centered and irrational.If the *Obama administration* — you know, that democratically elected liberal government? That responds to public pressure, the media, and the courts not to mention Congress?! If that administration has such a plan, it’s to be used in a dire emergency when our very nation’s functioning is threatened by a hostile power trying to take over our Internet here.what’s your plan for dealing with *that* Fred?Can you only bleat, like the rest of the wired and witless left, that a plan to *protect* our Internet and our nation’s security is in fact something that “threatens your business” or “your way of life”?!You’re awfully selective in doing so, and awfully myopic about the real threats in the world.And you’re also not getting the basics by being so techno-centric (as indeed, Morozov himself is in ascribing to authoritarian governments powers with technology that he’s never willing to ascribe to individuals and social movements). The real problem isn’t “the ability to shut down the Internet” — the problem is that such people can come to power.You’re so driven to hysteria about Egypt shutting down the Internet for a day under it’s current despotic regime that like other lefties, what, you’ll be willing to let Islamic fundamentalists come to power, just as long as they leave on *some* Internet? For business? For the stock market? Would that work?And then to drag in your net-neutrality sillyness to this discussion. Come on Fred. Follow through on your own convictions, at least. If you are not for the government shutting off the Internet, my God, why are you for the government getting into the business of providing broadband and throttling companies that might need to ration broadband because it’s a scarce resource, and charge more for it and slow those hogging up providers’ bandwidth for their own services (like Netflix) that haven’t paid for that bandwidth?So honestly, PLEASE don’t posture as a citizen of the world when a) you have such a myopic lefty worldview that is willing to give government control over the Internet when it serves your personal business interest for your start-up services you fund but b) not allow the government to protect the Internet for all of us from being taken over by a hostile force.I’m happy to hear debates about the pros and cons of the Kill Switch in America. What I won’t stand for is moral equivalence between that concept — not in place yet! — and what a Turkmenistan or an Egypt does in shutting down people’s communications when it threatens tyranny.But after years of hearing the Google-funded “net neutrality” shill, I won’t accept that as a public boon, either, as it is definitely a narrow-minded socialist concept concocted in a university to serve only certain technocommunist interests, no matter how you sugarcoat it as some kind of “public good”.

    1. fredwilson

      i am as much a citizen of the world as you are prokofywe are all entitled to our thoughtsi express mineyou express yoursthat’s how it should be

  63. Dan Epstein

    Frightening indeed, but I’d say an enlightening week as well.Investors learned/remembered they need to seriously evaluate the political risk involved in investing abroad, especially in internet companies in countries without free speech.Innovators learned that they probably don’t want to start or base a company in a country without free speech.And they may not be there yet, but I’m guessing governments, in particular those that don’t allow free speech, are realizing that they can’t just “turn off the lights” anymore. Technologies such as Twitter are making it impossible to control free speech. Rather than kill the conversation, the better path will be to engage in it.

  64. Dave W Baldwin

    Interesting comments. Remember, what is happening in Egypt is not something thought up 1-2 months ago…this has been in the planning for a few years based on this time block (moving to the coming election this year) was the time to get as many people on the streets showing protest enmass.In a sense you have a chess game where the dare has been presented (wipe us out in blood) which the government did not know what to do. Add to that the local authorities definately did not want to do that deed.The US says the Egyptian Government is stable, then changes to let the Egyptian people decide. At this point is when the dare of the people worked, so a leader of the opposition joins the masses, for the government will NOT kill him since that will flip the trigger on a violent revolution bringing in one foreign power or another.Insofar as US/Israeli go, the wild card is what makes up the next government? Could it be a weak President, powerful PM with Houses of Legislature(?) or does the Iranian/Al Qaeda side of the matter jump in?My point? With the reactions of the Ayatollahs and rumblings of Al Qaeda we see the true power of a people who want freedom based on the US/British storyline.My suggestion on the US side is for a class to be held involving the newly elected President and his predecessors before assuming office to discuss how to sound like you know what your doing, not piss off those that are in the firing line doing so where you don’t sound so reactionary….for Speaker Boehner is right not to knit pick what has been said over the past week and in so doing was able to exude confidence in the Egyptian population, since they are the ones we want to succeed.

  65. Dave W Baldwin

    Fred- You and I obviously agree on the cyber world and what we can do to change the world. Do not worry about those that try to argue from little compartments/boxes.Readers- I for one am not saying that the social graphs made possible what is happening in Egypt…those speaking out have. To me, the balls these folks have exhibited only enforces the drive to do what is suggested regarding the opening of communication via infrastructure, device and internal drives.We need to face simple truths regarding how nice we have it… we can wave the US flag, bitch about China (yet applaud companies that run the assembly line there), drop into old defense posture (not face the reality of how a new world is coming) and throw egg at those not ashamed of showing the needed naivety to lift the boats of all citizens via rights and eventual commerce.Point? We can push the pace and ease of communiction/collaboration in this country as we try to do the same for the world and quicken the date of achieving the true tipping point leading to better lives for more people.Who knows? Maybe the next uprising will force the oppressor to do communications with the broader population. If he/she is that great, they would be able to answer questions establishing calm/confidence talking about a realistic change in their governement’s archectecture over the coming 12-18 months.Mubarak has the opportunity to do something that will truly deliver a ripple effect- tell his people he understands and feels bad for what has happened. Then plot the forward moving course to weaken his position (President) look to electing a PM this September and establishing a legislature.At this point, something like that is but a pipe dream… but as we see the old guard off balance due to the force of the brave, we know the tipping point mentioned above is coming. I think we can help it arrive sooner.

  66. charleston

    Obama apparently thinks Egypt is a model worth emulating.

  67. emk

    The internet is designed to be resistant to natural disaster and sabotage not to the actions of lawful authority. Whether those those actions be democratic or dictatorial.Even here in the US it would only take a couple dozen, probably less, National Security Letters from the government to shut down the internet completely.The internet’s true immunity to dictatorial attack is only as great as our own immunity to dictatorial attack. No More.emk

  68. Entrepreneur

    Constant access to internet and internet connected devices provides a serious distraction that is not only unproductive, but is detrimental to progress outside of the internet world. Too much noise is not necessarily a good thing.

  69. ppearlman

    the word utopia is literally translated as ‘not a place’ or ‘no place’sir thomas more was being very clever.

  70. TanyaMonteiro

    This article has been bobbing about in my brain since this morning. In my experience this example is similar to many realities, past and present. It took me to visit the apartheid museum, years and years after I became an adult. To see dates then relate those dates/times and events to what i was doing at the same time and to realise the reality of what was going on in the same place I was in at the same time. This light bulb moment happened about 10 years ago. It seems the “power” of fellow humans just keeps repeating itself. Perhaps we can use technology and our “easy” access to find ways to build movements and help. I’m thinking allot about this

  71. walldawg

    When the initial reports came out about the internet being shut off in Egypt, I was definitely surprised. “They shut OFF the internet?!” But as the story unfolded and the tales of the fax machine net and oversees dial-up services came out, it actually instilled in me a sense of hope and awe at how resilient we humans are at communicating.It also reminded me of a conversation I had with my wife in our early days together… somehow the situation came up where she asked me, “you’d give up the internet for me if you had to, right?” I stuttered (first mistake) and replied, “the WHOLE internet?” Suffice it to say, I’m really glad I didn’t have to make that choice for real. πŸ™‚

  72. cutback

    I love this blog but I have to admit this has been the most depressing thread to read.I’m amazed at US hypocrisy for preaching the good gospel of democracy but actively supporting monsters like Mubarak in the interests of “stability” & “they’ll never get democracy anyway so who cares about 80 million Egyptians when we have 5 million Israelis to worry about” & “hey this is the real world get out the guns” blah blah blah.At least the Chinese are honest about their intentions & don’t pretend to be concerned about your rights. Choosing stability over freedom is like hoping to stay drunk. One day you’ll sober-up & it will be ugly.

    1. matthughes

      My feeling from the moment this escalated last week is that I regret, as an American, that we have felt obligated to support Mubarek.I do not regret that we have supported Israel, not for one second. They deserve our support and protection.That said, we cannot win in the court of international public opinion. Everyone thinks we’re awful when we confront evil dictators and is critical of us every step of the way; e.g., Iraq and to a lesser degree North Korea, Cuba and others.But when we rely on diplomacy and give way to relativity in the case of Egypt, now we’re hypocrites.It’s never good enough and we’ll never make everyone happy.The real issue is that there are evil people out there that would do senseless harm if not destroy their own people and everyone around them all for the sake of their own power.And I’m sorry, but to say China is honest about their intentions is absolutely not true. How can a government that limits basic individual freedoms (speech, freedom, etc), strictly sensors the Internet and notoriously plays fast and loose with currency be considered honest? Despite recent progress, their oppression – yes, that’s what is is, and alleged honesty about said oppression could hardly be considered a virtue.The US is far from perfect so whoever the perfect country is, go ahead and cast the first stone…

  73. Stan Faryna

    Obviously, those who stand against a better, more open and free world suck at how they use technology to advance their ambitions. <grin>Time for an oh- moment, Fred.While internet and mobile was cut in Egypt, pro-democracy fans, human rights advocates, and sympathetic netizens (outside of Egypt) shared the information that was getting out, thought about what was going on, and undercut the mainstream media. In other words, the response to censorship (direct and indirect a la mainstream media reluctance/disinterest) accelerated the rate of share/think/dialogue.You’ve put good money into the intertubes. Most of it – not yours. Still, stay true to your killer instincts, Fred.