The Internet Is Down in Syria

A hefty -- and scary -- percentage of the Internet in Syria seems to be down at the moment.

Per the global Internet monitor Renesys, "77 networks experienced an outage in Syria starting at 10:26 UTC on November 29. This represents 92% of the routed networks in the country."

People on the ground are reporting the outage, as well. Wired's Danger Room, per one source who works with Syrian rebels, confirmed that at least some of the country's Internet access is down:

We're not sure, at this point, what (or who?) caused the outage. Internet infrastructure is notoriously fragile; a single cut cable can disrupt service to several regions -- not just countries, but regions -- at the same time. Accidents can happen, easily. 

Then again, this is Syria. And in a country engaged in civil war -- or any war -- Internet access is its own kind of weapon. Could the outage be connected to rebels' bombing of the house of a top member of the Baath party earlier today? The AP is reporting that activists, at least, are accusing the government of blocking both Internet and cell phone signals in Damascus. (And, if so, this wouldn't be the first time the government had resorted to such broad communications cutting: It has previously cut both phone lines and Internet access in areas where regime forces have conducted major military operations.) And as my colleague over at Quartz, Christopher Mims, points out, rebels have prepared for a possible -- and, really, expected -- government shutdown of Internet infrastructure. So there's a good chance that this isn't a case of a little old lady accidentally severing some cables

Either way, I'll update this post as we learn more.

Update, 10:30 am: Here's a chart of today's Internet traffic to Syria, from the web services firm Akamai: 

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Update, 10:42 am: Reuters, reporting on the closure of the road to the Damascus airport, notes that the outage appears to be "the worst disruption to communications in Syria since an uprising began 20 months ago."

Update, 10:10 am, November 30: Cloudfare, dismissing the Syrian information minister's claim that the Internet was cut off by rebels ("terrorists") cutting its cables, explains in detail how Syrian officials allegedly -- but probably -- "turned off the Internet."

Meanwhile, Google has reactivated its Speak2Tweet service, which allows users to send voice messages over Twitter as a way of communicating beyond a cut-off Internet. The service began in February 2011, during Egypt's blackout, but has been largely dormant since then.

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Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

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