Internet freedom in Egypt
Egypt is not a place where you can express yourself freely. On the contrary, the country has a pretty poor record on internet freedom, coming in low on the world's Freedom of Speech Index. And it seems to be getting worse with time. In Egypt, you can be persecuted for your political opinions, religious views, personal beliefs, and more.
Internet freedom was significantly reduced in Egypt after the 2011 protests, which were also led to a major internet shutdown. However, censorship existed before 2011 too. The government arrested and imprisoned bloggers for their opinions, banned websites, and heavily monitored internet users through state-influenced internet service providers (ISPs).
In 2011, the government blocked Twitter and Facebook — and eventually the whole internet — for several days. Then in 2019, following new protests, Egyptian authorities disrupted services like WhatsApp and Signal. They also disconnected internet and phone networks in Sinai Peninsula during military operations.
How do Egypt's internet freedoms compare with other countries?
According to the Freedom House Internet Freedom Score system, Egypt’s is considered “not free” since 2015. Things have only gotten worse since then.
The president introduced a new cybercrime law back in 2018, which limits freedom of speech dramatically. Also, apparently to prevent the spread of information, social media channels with more than 5000 followers are treated as media outlets in Egypt, leaving them open to further legal action.
Of course, Egypt claims such measures are necessary for battling terrorism and protecting national security. In practice, this is rarely the case, however.
What content is banned in Egypt?
The following services and sites are either banned or restricted in Egypt:
- All LGBTQ-related content. Egyptian authorities regularly target members of the LGBTQ community for prosecution and harassment. Same-sex relationships can land Egyptians in prison, and this is reflected in the internet restrictions;
- Websites criticizing the government. In 2017, the Egyptian government blocked more than 60 websites, 48 of which were news-related. After a few months, the number of banned news and media sites had climbed to 434. The Huffington Post, Human Rights Watch, and Al-Jazeera are just a few of the sites blocked in Egypt;
- Social media. Facebook and Twitter have previously been shut down, as they are often used by protesters. While the shutdowns haven't been permanent, many political pages on Facebook have been taken down, presumably at the request of Egyptian authorities;
- Voice-over-IP services, such as Skype, FaceTime, and WhatsApp. These services are continually disrupted in Egypt for political reasons.
How to protect yourself online while in Egypt
Here are some tips to make your trip to Egypt safer and simpler:
- Use a premium VPN service, which offers high-quality encryption and genuine security. Additional functions — like NordVPN's Kill Switch, obfuscated servers, and Double VPN — are also a big plus. Avoid using unsafe free VPN services as they may have security flaws, and won’t offer reliable protection;
- Do not use LGBTQ dating websites. Law enforcement agencies often use such apps and services to target and arrest people;
- Avoid posting personally identifiable and private data online, which can be used to track you;
- Be especially careful when using public Wi-Fi hotspots and internet cafes. Internet cafes have been used in government monitoring schemes, while public Wi-Fi in general tends to be insecure;
Should you use a VPN in Egypt?
In Egypt you can face a large fine or even a jail sentence if you're caught accessing blocked content. If you're living or traveling in Egypt, we urge you to be cautious and avoid any unnecessary risks. Staying connected to a VPN is a great place to start.
NordVPN is a good choice for the following reasons:
- Obfuscated servers. NordVPN can hide the fact that you're using a VPN, thanks to our obfuscated servers function. This will stop any local ISPs, who may be working for the government, from noticing that you have a VPN;
- Double VPN. This feature will encrypt your traffic twice, giving you an additional layer of protection;
- The Kill Switch. NordVPN's Kill Switch immediately disconnects you from internet if your VPN connection goes down. This ensures that your data stays private at all times;
- Emergency VPN. We offer emergency VPN services for people facing oppression and heavy internet restrictions. This is a free VPN service to fight extreme cases of censorship. You can apply for it here.
- Threat Protection. Threat Protection is another extremely useful NordVPN feature. It neutralizes cyber threats before they can do any real damage to your device. TP identifies malware-ridden files, stops you from landing on malicious websites, and blocks trackers and intrusive ads on the spot.
We encourage you not to break any laws while you are in Egypt. Internet restrictions can be frustrating, but you should avoid illegal activity at all times, for your own safety. A VPN will protect you from hackers and help you maintain your privacy, but should not be used in any way that will clash with local regulations.
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