Despite blocking, the campaign had attracted more than 500,000 votes online opposing constitutional changes
For the seventh time round, the Egyptian authorities on Wednesday morning blocked the new site of the anti-constitutional amendments “Batel” electronic campaign, which is intended to collect signatures for rejecting the extension of the rule of coup leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, after blocking the official website of the campaign six times earlier.
The NetBlocks International website released a report on Wednesday saying that the seventh website of the opposition campaign was blocked, after internet service providers in Egypt blocked over 34,000 internet domains on Monday night in an apparent bid to stamp out the campaign that opposes proposed amendments to the Constitution.
Websites and subdomains unreachable via Telecom Egypt, Raya, Vodafone and Orange include prominent technology startups, self-help websites, celebrity homepages, dozens of Open Source technology projects, as well as Bahá’í, Jewish and Islamic faith group websites and NGOs.
The set of websites hosted on a shared IP address, now blocked, owned by hosting provider Netlify. The findings suggest that the Egyptian government may have incurred significant collateral damage as it seeks to restrict online content relating to the campaign, which uses the slogan Void.
NetBlocks released a report earlier this week stating that the original website for the Batel / Void campaign was first blocked hours after it reportedly gathered 60,000 signatures on Tuesday 9 April 2019 after gaining popular support against proposed changes to Egypt’s constitution “amid concerns over electoral fraud.”.
Ahead of the referendum, Egypt has seen widespread campaigning pushing for people to vote for the amendments. Website blocks began in May 2017, when access to 21 sites was blocked on some ISPs, without the websites’ prior notification or clarification from relevant officials on the reasons behind the block or the entity responsible for its implementation. Since then, the Egyptian government has increasingly resorted to website censorship, with access to nearly 500 webpages currently blocked, according to an inventory compiled by AFTE.
The “free referendum” campaign on Tuesday launched the seventh domain: “https://34000sites.com” on its seventh day since its launch, which lasted less than a day after its launch.
In an earlier statement, Arabi 21 said that “the Egyptian authorities continued to track and block the website’s addresses, reflecting their complete failure to penetrate and disrupt the site, due to the advanced security procedures developed by the technical team of the campaign, which led the government to resort to the only option it can do by blocking votes and silencing voices”.
The number of signatories to the Void petition campaign has so far exceeded 327,000 Egyptians both at home and abroad, despite the almost permanent blocking attempts of the campaign site.
A few days ago, Amr Waked, a famous Egyptian actor, announced his support for the Batel campaign, calling on the Egyptians to interact positively with the campaign and to participate in voting through the platforms announced.
Egyptian space scientist and former presidential adviser who is working at US Nasa Agency Essam Heggi also expressed his support and solidarity for the Void campaign, asserting that it is a “symbolic movement that seems small but carries great and sweeping hopes for change.”
Heggi stressed that “Batel Campaign is now the only way that has been made available to people for peacefully and securely express their opposition to constitutional amendments”, calling on all Egyptians to participate heavily in the campaign.
The family of the young Egyptian Khaled Said, described as “icon of the January 25 Revolution” expressed their full support for the campaign, adding: “If the martyr Khaled Said had been alive now, he would have been the first to declare his full and frank rejection of these amendments”.
The Khaled Said family also called upon the Egyptian people of across the political spectrum to participate quickly in this campaign, which they believe “contributes to the revival of the spirit of the January Revolution to save Egypt from Sisi’s tyranny.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s General Office also called upon all the free people all over the country, including various age, social, and intellectual categories to be “active participants in Batel campaign; to reject this regime, expose it through expressing themselves through this free vote, and to highlight rejection of attempts to reinforce the military rule”.
The “Void Campaign” is the first joint action that includes all thvarious political orientations since the July 3, 2013 coup, bringing together opposition political figures and forces from across its liberal, leftist, and Islamic spectrum. Observers consider this a significant change in the call for alignment of all national forces against the Sisi regime.