It appears the Syrian government has shut down the country’s access to both the Internet and cellular networks as of yesterday morning. The above graph, from Akamai, really says it all. Considering what’s going on in Syria, this is very, very bad news.
This isn’t an outage, either: It’s a full-on crackdown:
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.
So why would the Syrian government do this?
Syria is essentially in the middle of a full-on civil war. The Syrian government has been struggling with the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces for control of the country, and the military has not been shy about committing human rights abuses on an enormous scale, so much so that major government figures have defected over them.
Amidst all this, the Internet has essentially kept the Syrian government from spinning the conflict the way it wants, as a minor flare-up. Users of Twitter, YouTube, and other websites have kept the rest of the world informed, and more to the point, kept the Syrian government from covering up their actions. This is important because Syria is trying to avoid being sanctioned by the European Union and the United States.
So the Internet going dark is bad news. Hopefully this is a technical mistake, and not the prelude to a tragedy.