Syria's Internet is back up... for now

After turning off the Internet on Friday, Syria has turned it back on... for now.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

On June 3, 2011, Syria turned off its people's Internet connectivity. Syria's dictatorship had had enough of its citizens' self-reporting on the government's attacks on them. But, then Syria turned the Internet back on. What happened?

As Renesys, an Internet analytics firm, reported, only those sites that belonged to the Syrian government, and not all of them, were still on the net after the shutdown hit on Friday. In particular, "The networks that are not reachable include, substantially, all of the prefixes reserved for SyriaTel's 3G mobile data networks, and smaller downstream ISPs including Sawa, INET, and Runnet." In short, the people's Internet was blocked.

By Saturday though, the Syrian Internet was back up. "Seven of the 40 networks returned around 19:00 UTC (22:00 local time Friday night). The rest came back shortly after 04:00 UTC (07:00 local time Saturday morning). With connectivity restored, the Google Transparency Report confirms that traffic has resumed, at levels that look provisionally similar to those before the blackout."

Why? The Syrian government, which at first couldn't get its official story straight about whether the Internet had gone down because of an accident or by government fiat. It seems clear in the aftermath that Syria had decided to control the flow of information to its people.

On Friday, when there were calls for mass "children" protests over the murder of a 13-year old boy, Hamza Ali al-Khateeb, in late April, the Internet was off. On the next day, though, hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters tried to break across Syria's frontier with Israel in the Golan Heights leading to the reported death of about twenty individuals,

Why in the world were they trying to cross this defended border? Israel's chief military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai suggested that "The Syrian government is trying to create a provocation. This border has been quiet for decades, but only now with all the unrest in Syrian towns is there an attempt to draw attention to the border." And, at the same time, Syria's Internet comes back up just in time to report on the "blatant aggression launched by Israel yesterday on unarmed civilians."

Coincidence? I think not.

Syria's seems to be crudely trying to manipulate it people by switching the Internet off and on to control the flow of news. In the meantime, more Syrians are being killed by the Syrian military as the dictatorship continues to try to hold unto power by brute force and attempting to direct the people's anger towards Israel.

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