Kill switch in Syria. Not only water and electricity, now Internet and 3G too

Posted on June 4, 2011  /  1 Comments

So it appears the al Assad government is becoming more like the Mubarak government.

The Internet shutdown severely disrupted the flow of the YouTube videos and Facebook and Twitter posts that have allowed protesters and others to keep track of demonstrations, since foreign news media are banned and state media are heavily controlled. Both land lines and cellphones are so frequently monitored by Syria’s feared secret police that Skype had become a major means of communication among activists, and its loss as a tool may be a blow to the protest movement. Government Web sites, including those for the Ministry of Oil and the state news agency, SANA, remained online.

Two-thirds of Syria’s Internet network went offline at 6:35 a.m. Friday, said James Cowie, an analyst at Renesys, an Internet analytic firm, in a cascading blackout that took 30 minutes.

Forty of the country’s 59 Internet pathways were disabled, including Syria’s entire 3G mobile network, run by the country’s only telecom provider, Syriatel, which is owned by Rami Makhlouf, Mr. Assad’s cousin.

“People that want to use their smart phones to Tweet or read Web pages cannot,” Mr. Cowie said. “All of the IPs on those phones appear to be down.”

Phone service was also heavily disrupted across the country, and for the past several days, rights activists have reported that water and electricity had been shut off in a string of towns in central and southern Syria

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  1. Americans joining the club?

    SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Transit officials said Friday that they blocked cellphone reception in San Francisco train stations for three hours to disrupt planned demonstrations over a police shooting.

    Officials with the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, better known as BART, said they turned off electricity to cellular towers in four stations from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday. The move was made after BART learned that protesters planned to use mobile devices to coordinate a demonstration on train platforms.

    “A civil disturbance during commute times at busy downtown San Francisco stations could lead to platform overcrowding and unsafe conditions for BART customers, employees and demonstrators,” BART officials said in a prepared statement.

    The statement noted that it’s illegal to demonstrate on the platform or aboard the trains. BART said it has set aside special areas for demonstrations.

    The American Civil Liberties Union questioned the tactic.
    “Shutting down access to mobile phones is the wrong response to political protests,” the ACLU’s Rebecca Farmer said in a blog post.
    The Electronic Frontier Foundation said on its website that “BART officials are showing themselves to be of a mind with the former president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak.” Mubarak’s regime cut Internet and cellphone services in the country for days early this year while trying to squelch protests demanding an end to his authoritarian rule.

    BART officials were confident the cellphone disruptions were legal. The demonstration planned Thursday failed to develop.

    “We had a commute that was safe and without disruption,” said BART spokesman Jim Allison.

    The demonstrators were protesting the July 3 shooting of Charles Blair Hill by BART police who claimed Hill came at them with a knife.

    A July 11 demonstration disrupted service during the rush-hour commute, prompting the closing of BART’s Civic Center station. Several arrests were made.