"In a bid to limit Syrians' access to information and keep the outside world from learning the full truth about the government's campaign of violence, Syrian authorities shut down internet access and cell phone networks early this morning, with the exception of certain government services."
Update after the jump.
Update: Rensys reports the Syrian Internet is back up.
Renesys's James Cowie asks, "Will Friday Internet blackouts become a regular feature of the Syrian protests?"
Perhaps the fear is that certain imams will support the protesters and preach that support during Friday prayers. Perhaps more to the point, they fear people meeting up at the mosque will act as a conduit for protest plans, which they will then relay via the Internet.
Since March, when the Arab Spring hit Syria, government authorities have killed 1,100 Syrians (40 of them today) and jailed 10,000. Even with that casualty count, they keep coming. So, like the Mubarak regime in Egypt in its most desperate days, and like the Libyan regime a month later, Syria has vainly turned off its Internet, hoping to sever the people's connection to each other and to the world.
According to Rensys:
"Starting at 3:35 UTC today (6:35am local time), approximately two-thirds of all Syrian networks became unreachable from the global Internet. Over the course of roughly half an hour, the routes to 40 of 59 networks were withdrawn from the global routing table."
Because the vast majority of Syrian Internet is through one provider and is carried out of Syria by a submarine cable to Cyprus, closing it down must have been fairly easy. The fear is that this is a curtain being drawn across an atrocity of the scale of Hama.
Ammar Abdulhammid, a Syrian poet and thinker told me, "The information revolution makes it difficult to hide massacres, and images of violence tend to enrage rather than terrorize and could force world to intervene."
The images of Hamza Al-Khatib,a 13-year-old boy murdered and possibly tortured by Syrian security has certainly enraged Syrians; and, given how many ways Egyptians and Libyans found to get the word out even with the Internet compromised, an attempt to hide a massacre might not work anyway, on a simple technical level.
If history is any indication, it will not work.
Padlock photo by Ged Carroll