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Syria Just Turned the Internet Off Again

This is hardly a surprise.

by Adam Clark Estes
May 7 2013, 9:30pm
Image via Wikimedia

Just before 10 p.m. local time, the Internet went dark in Syria on Tuesday night. Scattered reports showed traffic to and from Syria fall off a cliff. Meanwhile, Google reported that all of its services were inaccessible in Syria, and the search giant's transparency report reflected the disruption in traffic. "Although Twitter remains relatively silent, the drop in both inbound and outbound traffic from Syria is clearly visible," . "The small amount of outbound traffic depicted by the chart indicates our DNS servers trying to reach DNS servers in Syria."

This is hardly a surprise. The Internet's gone down in Syria several times since the Arab Spring, and although the government denies involvement, there's strong evidence that suggests otherwise. Just six months ago, a private security firm showed evidence that the Assad regime had blacked out the Internet even though it said that it didn't. "The Syrian Minister of Information is being reported as saying that the government did not disable the Internet, but instead the outage was caused by a cable being cut," explained Matthew Prince, CEO of CloudFlare. "From our investigation, that appears unlikely to be the case."

Quite frankly, that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to censorship in Syria. The country's been on the top of Reporters Without Borders' list of Enemies of the Internet since 2006, when the list was introduced. Syria shut down Facebook in 2007 (for four years), firewalled Wikipedia in 2008 (for a few months) and has blocked YouTube and Twitter at various times. There was also an Internet blackout in 2011, reportedly as an attempt to cut off rebels ability to communicate with the outside world. 

It's unclear what if any role the government played in this latest outage, but again, history's not exactly on Assad's side here. The timing this time around is curious as well. For the past couple of weeks, the media's been backing and forthing, trying to figure out if the Assad regime used chemical weapons or even if the rebels did. Since chemical weapons use is the (problematic) red line that Obama's drawn to denote where the United States will intervene. Somebody certainly wants to keep something quiet.

For now, Syria is dark. Some Anonymous-types are hustling, tweeting out methods that Syrians can use to access dial up Internet. Of course, what good is posting information on the Internet about how to access the Internet in order to help people with no Internet access?

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