Obama condemns Egyptian crackdown on social networks

President Obama expressed disapproval on Thursday of Egypt's crackdown on the Internet as police battled protestors in the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities. 

The use of social networking sites to organize demonstrations spurred the government of Hosni Mubarak to block Twitter and Facebook and eventually also block both wireless and wired Internet access, according to news reports

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During an interview with Steve Grove, the head of news and politics at YouTube, President Obama cited a need for mechanisms that "allow [people] to express legitimate grievances."

"There are certain core values that we believe as Americans are universal: freedom of speech, freedom of expression, people being able to use social networking and other mechanisms to communicate their concerns; and that is no less true in the Arab world than it is in the United States," he said.

Alec Ross, the adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on innovation issues, tweeted in Arabic on Thursday to say the government should not obstruct Web access.

He also tweeted that "the USA continues to urge the Govt of #Egypt to allow peaceful demonstrations and no blocking of communications, including Internet"

State Department spokesman Philip Crowley also expressed concern. He tweeted on Thursday: "We are concerned that communication services, including the Internet, social media and even this #tweet, are being blocked in #Egypt."

The administration has been a vocal critic of governments who censor Web content, with Clinton making Internet freedom a focal point after Google limited its business operations in China partially because the search giant did not want to censor.

Clinton said at the time: "We stand for a single Internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas. And we recognize that the world’s information infrastructure will become what we and others make of it."