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Web inventor denies global 'kill-switch'

Mubarak's regime cut off Egypt's web access during the 2011 uprising, but English creator says a worldwide shutdown is only possible if governments agree on a centralised system

Ahram Online, Sunday 9 Sep 2012
Sir Tim Berners-Lee
The man who connected the world, Sir Tim Berners-Lee (Photo: Reuters)
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The inventor of the world wide web has denied there is a 'kill-switch' that could turn off the internet across the globe.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the Englishman who launched the web in 1990, said the the internet could only be entirely shut down if governments all over the world co-ordinated to make it a centralised system.
 
Three days into Egypt's early 2011 uprising, the Mubarak regime ordered the shutdown of the country's internet and mobile phone services in a bid to thwart mass protests. Mobile calls were reconnected after 24 hours but Egypt remained largely offline until the morning of 2 February.
 
Speaking at last week's London launch of the first ever global league table classifying countries which make best use of the web, 57-year old Berners-Lee said the internet was designed as a decentralised system. 
 
"At the moment, because countries connect to each other in lots of different ways, there is no one off-switch, there is no central place where you can turn it off," explained the computer scientist, quoted by the UK's Press Association.
 
"In order to be able to turn the whole thing off or really block, suppress one particular idea then the countries and governments would have to get together and agree and co-ordinate and turn it from a decentralised system to being a centralised system. And if that does happen it is really important that everybody fights against that sort of direction."
 
The World Wide Web Foundation's league ranked 61 countries using indicators such as the political, economic and social impact of the web, connectivity and use.
 
Egypt was placed 39th overall, but ranked 18th in terms of the political impact of its internet access.
 
Sweden topped the table, followed by the US in second and the UK in third. Yemen was in final place.
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