In what has become standard Middle East uprising protocol, Syria has turned off the Internet, according to two U.S.-based Internet-monitoring companies.
Renesys, a network security firm that studies Internet disruptions, reported that Syria’s Internet connectivity effectively shut down as of 12:26 p.m. local time in Damascus. Akamai Technologies Inc., an Internet content delivery network, confirmed the outage.
Egypt and Libya both shut off the Internet during their uprisings last year. In the almost two years of fighting, Syria has partially cut off Internet before, but this is the first major outage.
So why now?
As Bloomberg Businessweek recently noted, the conflict in Syria has bled from the streets to the Web as the government and rebels vied for control of the Internet. The digital tools Arab Spring opposition movements have used to organize and sustain their rebellions now are also being used against them.
The hacker group Anonymous infiltrated more than 12 Syrian government websites and released e-mails. On the other side, pro-government hackers broke into opposition websites and the computers of Reuters and Al Jazeera to spread misinformation. Emails, Facebook accounts and Skype communications have all been targets of hacking and shutdowns.
Assuming the government is behind the latest blackout, the move seems a bit like desperately knocking over all the pieces of an unfinished chess game.