Mobile operator Vodafone claims Egyptian authorities forced the company to distributed government-scripted test messages during the anti-government protests that have been rocking the country. The messages, attributed only to “Vodafone,” urged citizens to counter anti-government protests, with exhortations to “confront the traitors and criminals and protect our people and honor.”
According to Vodafone, Egypt has been invoking emergency powers under its Telecoms Act to send the messages, and has been doing so since the beginning of large-scale protests in Egypt. Vodafone also indicates it’s not the only mobile operator that has been forced to send similar messages: it says the networks of Mobinil and Etisalat have also been commandeered to send similar messages.
“These messages are not scripted by any of the mobile network operators and we do not have the ability to respond to the authorities on their content,” Vodafone wrote in a statement. “Vodafone Group has protested to the authorities that the current situation regarding these messages is unacceptable. We have made clear that all messages should be transparent and clearly attributable to the originator.”
Vodafone has not offered any indications as to why it has waited ten days since the start of large-scale protests to go public with information that its network had been commandeered.
Vodafone has been criticized for shutting down mobile service during the protests; the company has noted that the order to shut down mobile service was legal under Egyptian law and it had no choice but to comply. Vodafone mobile phone service has since been restored, and the company says it is “actively lobbying” to reactivate SMS service.