News has emerged this week that Vodafone Egypt has asked the NTRA (National Telecom Regulation Authority) to ban WhatsApp Voice; an app separate to WhatsApp that would allow users to call each other at no cost – a la Viber.
In a widely circulated letter sent to the NTRA on March 5th, Vodafone Egypt bosses complain about, and question the legality of, Whatsapp Voice, because “this application would enable users to call others for free, it would affect their billings.”
Putting aside the fact that blocking applications and sites is a restriction of the freedom of expression granted by the Egyptian constitution, it is the judiciary, and not the NTRA, that has the right to restrict access to WhatsApp Voice – which is yet to even be given an official release date.
Blocking WhatsApp Voice would almost undoubtedly harm the government’s reputation – to stand in the way of rapidly advancing technology that will ultimately benefit your citizens – and save them money – might strike many as both futile and regressive. This comes off the back of the PR disaster that was the GPS ban for ‘security reasons’.
It is not the role of the state to protect the interests and profits of multi-national corporations. It is the role of the state to work in the best interests of citizens, users and development.
Speaking of WhatsApp Voice, news has also emerged this week warning that scammers are sending out ‘invites’ to smartphone which prompt users to click a link with the promise of gaining early access to the service. Don’t click it.