A source at the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology has denied that any instructions have been given to restrict the use in Egypt of Facebook, the world's most popular social networking site. The source said that announcements circulating on some websites about a possible shut-down are completely baseless.
The source, who requested not to be named, added that Egypt, unlike other nations, has never before blocked the use of any website. He confirmed that the Ministry of Communications has not received any such notification from any authority during the past period.
Over the last week Facebook saw marked activity in groups demanding that the site maintain its services in Egypt, and a large number of users expressed fear that efforts to crack down ahead of the upcoming legislative and presidential elections would expand.
A video clip from the television program "Masr Innaharda" (Egypt Today) went viral on the site, in which a number of experts discuss what they consider to be "threats" on Facebook due to some opposition groups–for example the 6 April Youth movement–using the site to spread their ideas. Some site users say the program is part of an attempt to pave the way for banning the site in Egypt.
While Egypt does not have a record of shutting down websites, fears of increased scrutiny over online media and information technologies are mounting, especially following recent regulations from the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology to control SMS sending for news dissemination.
Freedom of expression advocates charge Egyptian authorities with clamping down on internet activists, an alleged government strategy to tame online expression, as opposed to imposing firewalls.
Egypt comes top among Middle Eastern countries in terms of rate of growth in the number of Facebook users.
Translated from the Arabic Edition.