Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Syria Has Disappeared From the Internet

A few hours ago, Syria, the Middle Eastern country in the middle of an especially bloody civil war, disappeared from the Internet.

The research firm Renesys, which keeps track of the status and health of the technical underpinnings of the Internet around the world, just reported that at 10:26 UTC this morning — which, by my watch, would have been 5:26 am ET — effectively all of Syria’s international Internet connectivity shut down.

More technically, what happened was that within the global routing table, all 84 blocks of IP addresses assigned to Syria have gone unreachable. That means that Internet traffic destined for that country is going undelivered, and also that traffic coming from within it cannot get out to the world.

Renesys is still investigating what’s going on, but, as we’ve seen in other countries, cutting off the Internet is usually meant to try and control the flow of information to the world. It’s also a pretty sure sign that the regime of Bashar al-Assad is either getting nervous about how it is being perceived in the world, or that it is planning something unspeakably harsh in the coming days and wants as little information emerging from that country as possible.

People on Twitter are starting to notice. And hashtag #SyriaBlackout is showing up:


Can’t call Syria. Scary blackout, as if things can get scarier still. #Syria. #SyriaBlackout
@BSyria
BSyria


So I’m not the only one not getting through RT @: Can’t call Syria. Scary blackout, as if things can get scarier still. #SyriaBlackout
@kyrah404
kyrah

The Associated Press (via the Seattle Times) has a report citing Syrian activists saying that the government has cut off Internet and wireless phone connections in and around several neighborhoods of the capital city of Damascus. There have been some clashes there between government forces and the rebels.

Reuters is reporting that there has been some heavy fighting along a road leading to Damascus International Airport, southeast of the city. The road has been closed, and Dubai-based Emirates Airlines has suspended flights in and out of there for now.

The AP is now reporting in a Beirut-datelined story (via The Washington Post) that Akamai has confirmed Renesys’ findings describing a “complete outage.”

Akamai tweeted this about an hour ago, including an image:


Akamai traffic data supports @ observation (http://t.co/uxC2ZhTo) that Syria is effectively off the Internet http://t.co/haNHwb5y
@akamai_soti
StateOfTheInternet

Obviously, this will be compared to previous actions by governments in Egypt and Libya where popular uprisings, some more violent than others, toppled authoritarian regimes. In Egypt in particular, world outrage ticked up significantly and people sought different alternative methods to help protesters in Tarhir Square and elsewhere coordinate their efforts. Eventually, the Internet came back on, but it was only a small step in the right direction for that country.

Update: Now Google has confirmed what Renesys and Akamai are seeing. (Click the image to make it bigger.)


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work