Libya's disordered Internet

By Danny O'Brien/CPJ Internet Advocacy Coordinator on February 22, 2011 3:52 PM ET

Craig Labowitz at Arbor has been sifting through the evidence of how countries in the Middle East have been blocking and throttling the Internet in the last week. His analysis indicates that while both Bahrain and Yemen had periods of slowed or impaired access, only Libya seems to have taken the drastic step of shutting off the Net entirely.

Libya's Net crackdown, however, hasn't shown the same consistency as Egypt's six-day long blackout. Libya's Internet was initially shut down Saturday night, around 1 a.m. local time, in a similar way to Egypt: a simultaneous withdrawal of global Internet routes. Eight hours later, the Net sprung back to life, only to disappear again just at 1 a.m. on Saturday and re-emerge at 8 a.m. Sunday morning. James Cowie at Renesys suggested that either someone was attempting an "Internet curfew", or else some fluctuating factor of the chaos within Libya was affecting connectivity - perhaps power problems at Telecom Libya's facilities.

I spoke to Cowie earlier today, and Renesys's monitoring systems haven't seen the same pattern today (Tuesday). For now, and from the outside, the Libyan Internet has been available since Sunday. That's not to say that it's available everywhere within Libya. There are repeated reports that connectivity in eastern Libya, where the protests are strongest, has been hampered. But it's hard to tell from here whether such breakdowns in access are at all coordinated.

Egypt's shutdown quickly emerged as a conscious act of interference because of corroborating evidence. Egypt had many companies offering Internet service, almost all of which withdraw access simultaneously. Nonetheless, Internet traffic passing through Egyptian netspace on the way to other countries was conspicuously unaffected by the local blackout. Libya's Internet presence is small compared to that of Egypt or Tunisia, and it's not a transit point on the way to the wider Net (as Cowie says "Traffic to Libya just doesn't go anywhere else"). That makes it much harder to confirm conclusively that Libya's patchwork blockade is deliberate.

Some other blocking actions are definitely the work of Qaddafi's central government. Where Internet is available, multiple news reports have confirmed that Twitter, Facebook and Al-Jazeera's websites have been added to Libya's normal political Net filters. But we just can't say whether Libya's Net "brownout" has been as deliberately managed. In particular, is the Libyan Net's current availability an unlikely concession from the government, or an indication that they can no longer maintain their control of the Net?


Yes but why is there internet, Skype and cellular coverage at all if it's all owned and funneled by one man?

The Egyptian blackout made sense, but if the government in Libya really want a media blackout, then why leave the internet and cellular networks open for customers at all? Filter all IP's/cell numbers and exclude a select few.

It makes no sense.

The internet, phones (landlines, mobile, and Skypes) and TV calbe have NEVER been down in bahrain. Slow (due to high useage, my spped was never below 3.0 mbps) but steady.

Social media networks are like public/human-based transnational information networks where so-called "intelligence" secrets flow.
Not surprising social media networks like Facebook and Twitter are
regarded as mechanisms of the Information Age where both high
financial crimes and legal enterprises co-exist.

The difference is that the public has information about how it all works or can be applied for their interests. The "shadowy" transnational information networks are now going extinct as they tell their stories
about human/drug/organ trafficking markets that utilize them.

Why isn't the news media doing its job of saying what is happening:
you can't level the playing field with knowledge and information when conditions of government, social/political evolution is not level in all
nations of the world. All have specific conditions from place to place.

A "uniform" policy for social media networking sites negate the reality cultural/human/political evolution.

Yukie Yamada

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