You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Mapping Initiative Provides Visualization of Infrastructure Disruptions in Syria

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, April 15 2013

Screenshot of Syria Digital Security Monitor map

Following months of serious Internet disruptions in Syria, including a total Internet blackout that most experts blamed on the Syrian government, the Canadian foundation SecDev launched a website to monitor such reported disruptions to critical infrastructure including Internet, telecommunication, electricity and water, and reported cyber threats in the hopes of increasing Syrian's online safety. The project relies on crowdsourced reporting and extensive monitoring of Syrian social media. Teaming up with Ushahidi, SecDev will create visualizations in the form of maps and timelines of reports of interruptions to Syrian infrastructure.

Jillian York, Director for International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told techPresident last November that the most likely culprit in the total Internet shutdown was the Syrian government. The Syrian government denied any involvement but never got their stories straight. According to Reuters, the information minister claimed that terrorists targeted the Internet lines and caused the interruption to service, but the telecommunications minister blamed a fault in the main communications and Internet cable. The blog CloudFlare explains that, since three undersea cables and a fourth cable that crosses Turkey would have to be cut simultaneously in order to lose Internet access across the country, the government scenario was "unlikely to be the case." Other extensive Internet disruptions in December and January have been recorded by the Renesys Internet Event Bulletins.

Both the Syrian government and the rebels rely on the Internet in their campaigns. SecDev CEO Rafal Rohozinski explained to Wired that the Syrian government “rel[ies] on the Internet as a means of coordination, propaganda, and ensuring a degree of satisfaction among its constituency.” Rebel fighters use Facebook and youtube for weapons training and there is an ongoing discussion on how journalists can use on the ground video as source material.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network for its generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.