The Egyptian government has forced cell phone operators to send pro-Mubarak text messages.
Vodafone Group PLC and France Télécom SA, facing heat for complying with the Egyptian government’s order to pull the plug on their networks last week, said Thursday that Egypt’s government forced its way onto their mobile networks to send text messages directly to the country’s people.
Cell phone operator Vodafone said that the Egyptian authorities forced it to send text messages in support of President Hosni Mubarak during the past ten days of anti-government protests.
U.K.-based Vodafone said the government invoked emergency powers under Egypt’s Telecom Act to send the text messages against the company’s will. Vodafone, which runs Egypt’s biggest mobile carrier by customers through a joint venture with state-controlled Telecom Egypt, said it protested the action and “made clear that all messages should be transparent and clearly attributable to the originator.”
France Télécom, which runs mobile carrier Mobinil in a joint venture with Orascom Telecom Holding, said the Egyptian army forced it to send texts to its customers, though it said the only army-endorsed messages processed by Mobini concerned “national security and general safety.”
Vodafone said the text-messaging capability of it and other mobile operators in Egypt has been shut down since mass protests began late last week. But Egyptian authorities appear to have opened the networks briefly at times to send pro-government texts.
The messages appeared to be nonthreatening in nature. One Mobinil subscriber received the following text on Tuesday: “Egyptian youth beware of rumors and listen to the voice of reason. Egypt is above everyone so protect it.”
In an Israellycool exclusive, my correspondent in Egypt reports receiving other pro-Mubarak text messages, including:
- “For a good time, call Hosni 1800-265-PREZ”
- “Don’t b fooled by Muslim Brotherhood. Hosni is your brother in the ‘hood”
- “Hosni – serving the greater Egyptian community since 1981”