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Tech Wednesday, May 8th 2013 at 8:40 am

Syria Enters Second Day of Internet Blackout: Here’s What We Know

The war-torn nation of Syria functionally disappeared from the Internet yesterday afternoon, just before 3 pm EDT. This morning, a few more details on the situation have surfaced, but not many. What we do know isn’t heartening for the scenario in Syria. In addition to Internet access, landlines between provinces within Syria have been cut off, further hampering communication between Syrian citizens.

Syria’s state news agency told Al Jazeera that the communication outages are the result of a technical malfunction, not a deliberate attempt to cut Syria off from the outside world, informing the news agency that:

Internet services and phonecalls between provinces were cut off Tuesday evening because of a fault in optical fibre cables…Efforts are ongoing to fix the faults and to bring Internet and telephone services back up as soon as possible.”

Jim Cowie with Internet traffic tracking firm Renesys, though, told Al Jazeera that explanation for the blackout is unlikely.

We don’t see any effects in neighbouring countries, and we don’t see anything to suggest that the outage was caused by damage to one or another of the several cables that connect Syria with the outside world.

Whatever the cause of the blackout — and like Cowie, we’re disinclined to believe this is a technical hiccup — indicate that even devices like satellite phones are being notably slowed in Syria at the moment, though with so little detail on the situation there, we can’t speak to whether it’s accurate or not. A few folks, like The Guardian’s Middle East Bureau Chief Paul Danahar, noted above, are managing to get tweets out here and there. If you’re hoping to follow the story more closely, #Syriablackout will get you up to the minute details such as they are.

Meanwhile, Google is once again promoting its Speak2Tweet collaboration with Twitter, which lets anyone with a working phone line — land or cell — call in to a phone number to leave a short voice message that gets posted to the Speak2Tweet Twitter feed. Developed by Google to help citizens maintain contact with the Internet during the Egyptian revolution a few years ago, Speak2Tweet has been used in Syria prior, when an Internet blackout similar to today’s struck the country in November of last year. Speak2Tweet certainly isn’t a perfect solution, but it’s better than nothing.

Keep checking back for regular updates on this story as it develops.

(via Guardian, Al Jazeera)

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