In a sign of what many critics are calling expected censorship, Egypt’s Cabinet has set May 10 2015 as a deadline in order to determine whether to continue to allow the WhatsApp voice application from being used in Egypt. The issue is likely to find controversy in a fractured country where political turmoil has persisted for nearly five years.
According to the head of the National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (NTRA) Hesham al-Alayly, the May 10 2015 deadline given by the agency will decide whether or not Egyptians and foreign residents will continue to have access to the popular messaging app.
Speaking to the non-governmental newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm, Alayly added that the “committee recently formed by the NTRA will submit its report on the impact of online voice applications, particularly WhatsApp, and will recommend either allowing or suspending the service.”
It would follow other Middle Eastern countries attacks on social media apps, with Turkey over the past couple of years having barred use of the micro-blogging site Twitter after protests erupted against the government in Ankara.
In Egypt, telecommunications companies have been pushing the NTRA against regulation of the app, arguing it would have a negative impact on companies’ profits if censored.
Alayly said that Mobinil, Vodafone and Etisalat have all issued letters arguing against any ban. The newspaper reported that the three network carriers coordinated over the past two months to pressure the NTRA to suspend the service. Facebook acquired WhatsApp in a large financial deal in 2014 and is launching the voice application via Wi-Fi networks.