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Do Now #51: Syria’s Internet Shutdown

| November 30, 2012 | 16 Comments
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Rebel fighters battle Syrian government forces: FreedomHouse2 via Wikimedia Commons


To respond to the Do Now, you can comment below or tweet your response. Be sure to begin your tweet with @KQEDEdspace and end it with #KQEDDoNow

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Do Now

If Internet service was suddenly shut down in the United States, in what ways would it most impact your life?

Introduction

On Thursday, November 29, Internet and cell phone service throughout almost all of Syria was shut down. The service disruption continued through Friday, forcing an airport closure. The Syrian government has been widely suspected of disabling service, although President Bashar al-Assad, claimed that it was “terrorists” cut the cable. The shutdown marks another chapter in Syria’s bloody, ongoing civil war, which began in March 2011, in the midst of the Arab Spring. Rebels attempting to overthrow the county’s authoritarian government, have routinely used social media on the Web to communicate with each other and send images of the war to the rest of the world in an effort to highlight the military’s attacks on civilians.

Only four internet cables connect Syria to the outside world, according to Matthew Prince, CEO of CloudFlare, a web security company. Three of them run underseas, and the fourth is an overland line through Turkey, making it very unlikely that anyone other than the Syria government had caused the blackout. “In order for a whole country outage, all four of these cables would have had to been cut simultaneously,” Prince wrote in his investigation of the incident. “That is unlikely to have happened.”

On Friday, among the only sites in the country that remained accessible were those of the Syrian government, which are hosted in other countries (including the United States). The U.S. government and a number of private technology companies, including Google, reacted to the news by providing rebel forces with “non-lethal equipment” – communication devises intended to help get around the outages.

Throughout the Arab Spring – in the string of Middle Eastern countries where popular rebellions have occurred – social media has been a crucial organizing tool for anti-government factions. And as a result, governments have repeatedly tried to restrict and control access to the Internet as a way of controlling dissent: a quintessential example of government censorship.

Resources

PBS NewsHour segment Rebels, Assad Regime Blame Each Other for Service Disruption
- Nov. 29, 2012
Internet and cell phone service was down throughout the majority of Syria. While rebels blamed the Syrian government for the service disruption, President Bashar al-Assad claimed it was the work of “terrorists.” Independent Television News’ Jonathan Rugman reports on the shutdown and intense fighting near Damascus.


To respond to the Do Now, you can comment below or tweet your response. Be sure to begin your tweet with@KQEDedspace and end it with #KQEDDoNow

For more info on how to use Twitter, click here.

We encourage students to tweet their personal opinions as well as support their ideas with links to interesting/credible articles online (adding a nice research component) or retweet other people’s ideas that they agree/disagree/find amusing. We also value student-produced media linked to their tweets like memes or more extensive blog posts to represent their ideas. Of course, do as you can…and any contribution is most welcomed.


More Resources

 

NPR segment Shutdowns Raise Issue Of Who Controls The Internet – Dec. 1, 2012
The whole idea of the global Internet has always been that it’s an ungoverned space, where people around the world can share information freely. That principle will be challenged next week at the World Conference on International Telecommunications in Dubai.

http://storify.com/kqeddonow/kqed-do-now-round-up-syria-internet-shutdown

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Category: Do Now

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About the Author ()

Matthew Green runs KQED’s News Education Project, a new online resource for educators and the general public to help explain the news. The project lives at kqed.org/lowdown.