Saturday, June 04, 2011

The Net is back up in Syria -- why did they take it down? Why reconnect?

As shown in this graph from Renesys. Syria, like Egypt in January, was disconnected from the Internet for 28 hours, but is now back online.

Why did they take it down? Why did they reconnect it?

I am sure the takedown was under consideration and debated internally for some time. The deciding factor may have been the world wide revulsion at the YouTube video showing the tortured and mutilated body of 13-year old Hamza Ali al-Khateeb. (A good place to read about that is David Brooks' commentary on it in the New York Times. If you want to see the video itself, you can find it on YouTube. I've not watched it -- Brooks' description was sufficient for me.)

Why did they reconnect to the Internet? Perhaps they realized the futility of stopping the flow of information into and out of the country, as illustrated by this tweet:
@MadeInSyria Dial up access for #Syria: +46850009990 +492317299993 +4953160941030 user:telecomix password:telecomix, 11 hours ago
Perhaps it was the dictator's dilemma -- Syrian economic institutions had grown too dependent upon the Net to cut it off. Regardless, it is back up and the Twitter stream for #syria is again reporting on the situation, for example:
@MalathAumran: Hama reports tens of tanks gathering about 60 at the southern entrance of the city #Syria, 1 hour ago

@jenanmoussa: Ten dead as helicopter opens fire in #syria(n) city of #Edleb: al arabiya, 2 hours ago

@weddady: 63 peaceful protesters killed yesterday by the regime of Bashar Al-Assad in #Syria.. in other news, the world is watching.., 2 hours ago

@MalathAumran: Idleb: Military helicopters are shooting randomly on Jisr Alshghour city for half an hour now. more details @ #Syria, 2 hours ago

@guardian: Syrian forces kill 70 protesters #Syria
2 hours ago

@FlashNewsPlus, #Syria: extremely disturbing report from witnesses that wounded are being taken from Al Badr hospital in #Hama and killed. via @MalathAumran, 8 hours ago
Messages like these are being read by government leaders and citizens around the world, and they cannot easily be ignored. They are also important for the people in Syria who can know what is going on in cities other than their own.

The Syrian government would like to suppress this news, but they cannot. Do they now wish they had reined in the Internet from the beginning, as, for example, Cuba did and continues doing? Cuba has paid a price for that decision, but it may have helped prolong Castro's regime.