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Egypt disconnects itself from the Internet

Having found that cutting off access to social networking services including Twitter and Facebook hasn't helped stem the flood of protests across the country, Egypt has taken its censorship to the next level: blocking the entire Internet.

As further protests against incumbent President Hosni Mubarak's rule sweep the nation, Internet traffic from the country has dropped to a fraction of its previous levels - with some Internet monitoring services claiming a dip of between 88 and 98 per cent.

A traffic graph, prepared by Arbor Networks, demonstrates the scale of the issue: just before 18.00 last night, Internet traffic to and from Egypt suddenly ceased.

While the Egyptian government has yet to issue an official comment, it would appear that it is attempting to curtail the activities of protesters by making it harder for them to communicate. At the same time, it would appear to be attempting to keep information on the current state of the nation from leaking out. Officials previously denied blocking Twitter, despite the site's assertions to the contrary.

The latest move, which marks the first time a major nation has voluntarily disconnected itself from the Internet, is not thought to be linked to attacks by digital vigilante group Anonymous. While the outfit, along with another known as the People's Liberation Front, had been attacking government sites in Egypt prior to the outage, their efforts are unlikely to have borne such impressive fruit.

With protests continuing and the Egyptian authorities remaining silent, it remains to be seen how long the self-imposed Internet blackout will continue.