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Syria's Internet Completely Cut Off for the First Time Since its Civil War Began

BY Sam Roudman | Thursday, November 29 2012

After a Damascus car bomb (credit: FreedomHouse/Flickr)
An engineer from Cloudflare says this is a time-lapse graphic showing how Syria lost its connections to the Internet. "All the edge routers are controlled by Syrian Telecommunications," Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince writes on his company blog. "The systematic way in which routes were withdrawn suggests that this was done through updates in router configurations, not through a physical failure or cable cut." The Syrian government says otherwise.

The Internet has been effectively cut off in Syria since early this morning. Internet intelligence company Renesys reports that all 84 of Syria’s ISP address blocks have become unreachable. The most recent update, posted at noon, shows 92 percent of Syria’s networks still down.

Jillian York, Director for International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, says this is the first time since the Syrian civil war began last year, that an Internet outage has been anything more than “temporary.” According to York, the most likely culprit is the Syrian government, since they “control all the telecommunications network from a central point.”

The Syrian government claims otherwise. According to Reuters the minister of information blamed terrorists while the minister of telecommunications claimed there was “a fault in the main communications network.”

York posited that the purpose of cutting off the Internet might be to isolate Damscus, Syria’s capital city, where rebels have recently been gaining ground, so that the government could do something “without anyone else watching.”

There were two notable Internet shutdowns in 2011 at the beginning of the Arab Spring — one for five days in Egypt and another that lasted five months in Libya. “Egypt was considerably different,” said York “because you had a lot of media on the ground despite the blackout.”

In response to questions posed via Twitter to some Syrian activists, one replied: “end can’t answer bcz the man [you want] to have a dialogue with just put Syria in the dark age.”

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