Syria Cuts the Internet

Government halts connection, hoping to halt protests

Syria pulled the plug on the Internet. As an unwavering anti-government movement continues to demonstrate against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, government officials blocked most of the country’s Internet network, cutting off a vital line of communication for protest organizers.

A majority of the 59 Internet pathways in the country (including its mobile 3G network) were disabled in a rolling blackout yesterday, according to Internet intelligence firm Renesys. There is only one Internet provider in Syria, Syriatel, and it is owned by the president’s cousin.

Despite the harsh crackdown, an organizer told The New York Times that activists have continued to post content by relying on Jordanian and Lebanese lines in the border areas. Some were going so far as to risk their lives to access the Internet at cafés across borders.

Publicizing the story of revolution across the Middle East and North Africa has been the work of young activists with a voice and an Internet connection. Activists fear their struggle will go unnoticed without access to the outside world via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr.

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak tried the same tactic of cutting off protestors’ virtual sounding board during the uprising in Egypt earlier this year. His ensuing ouster shows that the virtual realm is an important space for demonstrators, but the thrust of good old-fashioned power in the streets is not to be underestimated.