Bahrain's death toll grows and its Internet slows

Arbor Networks speculates that Bahrain is censoring its Internet as the strife torn nation's death toll climbs.

Bahrain's dictatorship looked at what has happened in Tunis and Egypt and decided that bullets would serve its cause better than relenting to its people's call for ballots and reform. This morning, mercenaries of Bahrain, a small Persian Gulf country, overran a camp of sleeping protesters killing at least four of them. At the same time, it appears that Bahrain has started strangling the country's Internet connection to keep news from coming in or out of the country.

Sources at Arbor Networks, a network security company, told me that "Bahrain has significantly increased its filtering of Internet traffic in response to growing political unrest." While the Bahrain Internet has remained up, unlike Egypt's Internet, it's averaging a pronounced 10-20% reduction in traffic volumes.

The data for Arbor's analysis was collected by its ATLAS (Active Threat Level Analysis System) network. This system collects Internet traffic data from about 120 worldwide ISPs.

Others have noticed this decrease as well. As New York Times columnist Nicolas Kristof, who is reporting from Bahrain, tweeted, "Why slow the Internet? The #Bahrain govt view seems to be that if it isn't uploaded on YouTube, it hasn't happened." Al Jazeera is also reporting that there are Internet slow-downs in-country and that some Web sites are being blocked.

Officially, Bahrain's main ISP Batelco is saying that it is working to restore services after Internet degradation. Why there was a slowdown? A spokesman for Bahrain's Telecommunications Regulatory Authority said that the Internet slow-down could be due to "heavy usage in the country."

Batelco is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Batelco Group. It, in turn, is a publicly traded stock company and its majority stock holder is the Bahrain government. Between this, and the fact that Bahrain's Internet traffic is actually significantly lower than usual, I think we can safely say that the government is censoring its Internet.

At the same time that Bahrain's royal dictatorship is clamping down on the Internet through its proxies, it's also barred, according to Kristof, the entry of any more journalists into the country. There is every reason to believe that the Bahrain government will continue its assault on its people as far away from the gaze of the Internet and reporters as it can mange.