Egypt blocked Facebook's Internet service over surveillance demands

Egypt blocked Facebook's Free Basics Internet service late last year after Facebook refused the Egyptian government's demands to build in the ability to spy on users. Reuters reported the story late Thursday, citing two people familiar with the matter.

Facebook launched its Free Basics service in Egypt in October. Its rollout in India was fraught with conflict, too. We've written about the service here at Boing Boing before–it's been called a walled garden, a form of "digital colonialism," and anti-net neutrality.

The basic idea is to allow poor people who can access a smartphone to create a Facebook account and access internet services that Facebook approves of, all free of charge.

From Reuters:

The Egyptian government suspended the service on Dec. 30 and said at the time that the mobile carrier Etisalat ETEL.AD had only been granted a temporary permit to offer the service for two months.

Two sources with direct knowledge of discussions between Facebook and the Egyptian government said Free Basics was blocked because the company would not allow the government to circumvent the service's security to conduct surveillance. They declined to say exactly what type of access the government had demanded or what practices it wanted Facebook to change.

A spokesman for Facebook declined to comment. Etisalat did not respond to a request for comment.

"Exclusive: Egypt blocked Facebook Internet service over surveillance – sources" (Reuters, Joe Menn and Yasmeen Abutaleb)

Image: A man poses with a magnifier in front of a Facebook logo on display in this illustration taken in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, in this December 16, 2015, file photo. REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/FILES