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Syria Drops Off the Internet As Turmoil Spikes

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the syrias-problem dept.

The Internet 94

CWmike writes "In what appears to be the latest bid by a government to throttle access to news and information amid growing civil unrest, the Syrian government Friday shut down all Internet services. Internet monitoring firm Renesys reported that starting around 7 a.m. EDT today, close to two-thirds of all Syrian networks were suddenly unreachable from the global Internet. In just 30 minutes, routes to 40 of 59 Syrian networks were withdrawn from the global routing table, Reneys' chief technology officer James Cowie said in a blog post. The shutdown has affected all of SyriaTel's 3G mobile data networks as well as several of the country's ISPs, such as Sawa, INET and Runnet. Also down are the Damascus city government page and the customs web site. The only networks that appear to be somewhat reachable are a handful of government-owned networks such as one belonging to Syria's Oil Ministry, Cowie noted. 'We don't know yet how the outage was coordinated, or what specific regions or cities may be affected more than others,' Cowie wrote. 'If Egypt and Libya are any guide, one might conclude that events on the street in Syria are reaching a tipping point.'"

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94 comments

Calling for bets (1)

Prysorra (1040518) | more than 3 years ago | (#36333336)

20 bucks says Syrian protesters will attempt a Tahrir Square.

10 more bucks says some concessions will have to be made.

Unsure about revolution.

Re:Calling for bets (1)

isorox (205688) | more than 3 years ago | (#36333380)

20 bucks says Syrian protesters will attempt a Tahrir Square.

10 more bucks says some concessions will have to be made.

Unsure about revolution.

Does Syria have oil?

Re:Calling for bets (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#36333576)

Yes. It's not one of the huge oil producers like, for example, Russia or Saudi Arabia. But it's still a significent exporter.

Re:Calling for bets (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36333384)

This will be bloody.

Re:Calling for bets (5, Insightful)

rahvin112 (446269) | more than 3 years ago | (#36333438)

It's already bloody. Several thousand dead at this point. It looked like the Regime was winning until the pictures of the dead kids, in particular the one with the mutilated genitals hit the internet and basically fanned some new fire into the resistance. My guess is the regime is trying to prevent their own people from accessing the imagery of the kids, though it's likely that everyones already seen it or has copies. They made a serious error in judgement on the effect mutilating a child would have. My guess is they thought it would inspire fear, they were very very wrong.

Re:Calling for bets (4, Informative)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36333566)

Not only do they already have these images - Today was "Children's Friday" demonstration - where kids marched in the streets, carrying placards with the images of Hamza Al-Katib.
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2011/06/20116392427645443.html [aljazeera.net]

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/blogpost/post/syria-internet-services-shut-down-as-protesters-fill-streets/2011/06/03/AGtLwxHH_blog.html [washingtonpost.com]

Re:Calling for bets (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36333662)

yea but the ironic thing is the rebels did the mutilating...

Re:Calling for bets (5, Insightful)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 3 years ago | (#36333746)

They made a serious error in judgement on the effect mutilating a child would have. My guess is they thought it would inspire fear, they were very very wrong.

Psychology is a funny thing. That kind of terror repression scares people into submitting right up to the point it scares them into rebelling. I think it works on a base, emotional level that defies any kind of rational consideration. It's like when the reporter is talking to someone who just did something crazy to save someone else, they'll say "I don't know why I did it, I wasn't thinking at all. I just saw and did and was through it before my mind caught up."

The Libya thing surprises me. I thought we saw the collapse of Qdaffy coming and it just stopped in mid-collapse. It's like watching a failed demolition where the building defiantly stops collapsing halfway through.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwGE92upfQM [youtube.com]

I bet a lot of the high-level people who defected thought they were safely jumping on the bandwagon and now it's months later and where's this revolution we've been hearing about?

Re:Calling for bets (3, Informative)

gtall (79522) | more than 3 years ago | (#36333900)

Insightful comment you made. Just to hopefully add a bit, I think the success of a revolution depends upon the proportion and status (in a very ill-defined sense) of the people the regime has bought off to the point where they depend upon the regime for survival (pick yer survival: religious, political, economic, etc.).

In Syria, the minorities have a stake in the government because the overwhelming majority of the people are Sunni whereas the regime is Alawite which a branch of Shi'ism. The Christians and other religious sects and the Kurds and other ethnic groups believe the government protects them from Sunni domination. Saudi Arabia's emphasis on Sunnism make the division sharper, just as they f-cked up the situation in Bahrain (there was no hint of Iranian involvement but those Saudi saw an Iranian behind every grain of sand). So the Syrian regime gets support it doesn't deserve, they cannot protect their minorities except through violence which will only make the Sunnis think of the minorities as ill-deserving of protection.

In Libya, the sects aren't a problem, it's the tribes. The Q. Dolt has been playing them off each other for decades. That kind of suspicion won't disappear overnight. Nor do the tribes feel any sort of common purpose, the tribe comes first. So the opposition has been diffuse. And the oil revenue has be paying for a certain segment of the population. That segment won't willingly give up.

The militaries in both countries depend intellectually and financially on the central government with no outside influence. With Egypt and Tunisia, there was Western influence. The consequence was the latter could see an existence separate professionally from the State. Syria and Libya's militaries can see no existence separate from the state because the State is their sole reason to exist.

Re:Calling for bets (4, Informative)

Kyusaku Natsume (1098) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334126)

Also, the fact that the libyan rebels are killing left and right black people just for the crime of being black has planted the seed for a long lasting conflict not only among libyans but between the libyans and their neighbors that are not that happy with the establishment of a new apartheid regime in North Africa.

Re:Calling for bets (5, Interesting)

shutdown -r now (2226722) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334346)

The reason why the Libyan uprising failed was because it wasn't exactly a people's revolution, where elites are swiped away. It is an uprising against one faction of the Libyan society against another faction - a civil war - and it cuts across the social strata. There are plenty of genuine Qaddafi supporters in Libya, and not just in the army - early on they've been telling us that everyone is deserting him and he only has foreign mercs to fight for him, but by now it's obvious that it's not true. So the whole thing in Libya will drag on until either side will gain the upper hand, and make no mistake - either way it'll be a massacre for the other sides. Rebels aren't really any better than loyalists in that regard - we've already seen summary executions, public torture and mutilation documented on their side as well (plenty of vids on YouTube if you care to look). Not exactly surprising, given that the rebel faction is an unstable alliance of liberals, monarchists and Islamists, and liberals don't exactly have the upper hand. Then there are Black Libyans, who are between the rock and the hard place - loyalists want to conscript them to fight, and rebels (the majority of which are strongly racist) shoot them on sight when captured, as "mercs". Truly a mess.

Re:Calling for bets (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36335702)

Nothing funny about the Syrians' psychology - it's completely rational, with emotion serving it not driving it. Fight or flight is the operative choice there. They can either lay low and hope to suck up to the aggressor, or they can fight back. It's a binary decision.

Libya's a different situation. There's a worse, or at least weirder, tyrant, but the society is less ... um, densely packed or something. Or Q-Daffy is just smarter than Ass-ad. Anyway, the heat never got high enough to drive the phase transition.

I don't think you know much about psychology.

Re:Calling for bets (3, Insightful)

Smauler (915644) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334034)

I'm personally very wary about individual cases inciting revolt.

Firstly, the revolutionaries in Libya have already committed acts of questionable legality and morality. Individual cases there have been worrying.
Secondly, individual incidents can often be blamed upon rogue individuals.
Thirdly, though I do not claim this has happened here, it is possible to stage individual events. Propaganda is massively effective.

However, the biggest problem I have with individual events that hit the news is that there are thousands that don't, that we are ignoring. Torture, violence, unjustified incarceration and repression are systematic in plenty of countries that we call our allies. Until recently we were happy to accept all these things with Syria (as one of a number of examples). It's only now that Syria is in crisis that we condemn their actions.

Re:Calling for bets (1)

bryan1945 (301828) | more than 3 years ago | (#36336216)

Somehow I missed this facet of the conflict/uprising (the kids). That's just some level of sick I can't comprehend. I don't have kids, but I have a niece and nephew, and... it makes me literally feel sick.

Re:Calling for bets (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36349084)

it should make you feel sick...

that means you are normal, and healthy

Re:Calling for bets (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36333516)

This will be syrias.

So? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36333354)

Nobody, not even the Syrian "people" i.e. TERRORISTS, have a "right" to the Internet.

Re:So? (1)

fredrated (639554) | more than 3 years ago | (#36333398)

I missed the part of the summary about people having a right to the internet, are you posting on the wrong thread?

Re:So? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36333426)

they see me trollin', they hatin'...

The current troll for the Arab Spring is to start shouting that the brutal dictators are actually legitimate elected leaders and the revolutionaries are terrorists.

Re:So? (0)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 3 years ago | (#36333594)

Mods, mod this back up, Govt doing kill switching has a lot of "innocent harm".

Internet Kill Switches are Da New Hotness (0)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 3 years ago | (#36333396)

(Lolcat)
Cuz I am in ur revolution and you can't stand it.
Long revolutions are long.
(/Lolcat)

offtopic - 503's today (0)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 3 years ago | (#36333414)

Really bad case of 503 unavailable today.

Re:offtopic - 503's today (4, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#36333466)

Slashdot routes all its traffic through Syria.

Re:offtopic - 503's today (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36333786)

Yeah I think someone slashdotted the site.

Re:offtopic - 503's today (1)

surveyork (1505897) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334936)

philosoraptor
Slashdot slashdotted?
/philosoraptor

Learning from world events (2)

abbynormal brain (1637419) | more than 3 years ago | (#36333416)

... I've just installed an "Internet kill switch" in my house. Now - I just need to wait for the next time my wife or kids piss me off. Internet Nazi says, "NO INTERNET FOR YOU!"

Internet kill switch installed in wrong house... (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 3 years ago | (#36333474)

I think you installed it in Cowboy "503" Neal's house by mistake.

Re:Internet kill switch installed in wrong house.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36334054)

you're both so not funny...stop trying pleease....I feel embarrassed for you.

Protesters need a communications plan (3, Interesting)

davidwr (791652) | more than 3 years ago | (#36333424)

Part of any future protest movement is going to be managing international communication in the face of government-enforced information-blockades.

Part of any future totalitarian regime is going to be anticipating these and taking care of it.

--
On an unrelated topic, there are two ways to successfully run a totalitarian regime:
* Through fear and intimidation
* Through running it like a cult and silencing people at the slightest hint that they don't worship you.

Most regimes try use the first approach and some do so successfully. North Korea - the self-proclaimed 2nd happiest place on Earth [theweek.com] - approximates the second but I'm sure they use the first when needed and they've been successful at staying in power for decades.

Re:Protesters need a communications plan (0)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 3 years ago | (#36333458)

I have one.

Encoded sales transaction.

Go to any participating store and order X items according to a chart you carry with you/memorize.

It's like a substitution code, and thanks to Kurt Godel only your partner knows what the coding is. So what if you buy 12 boxes of cheerios and not 4, 3 nail clippers, 17 tissues, etc.

Then the wholesaler/etc blogs the coded message without saying what sale it came from.

Re:Protesters need a communications plan (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#36333598)

But how do you negociate the code beforehand? Or know you can trust the store? And how does the info get out if the internet and international phone service is cut?

With proper use of encryption and anti-tracing measures, it is possible at least to force the government into an all-or-nothing action like shutting down the internet access for the country entirely, which further angers the people.

Re:Protesters need a communications plan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36333648)

Does all this protesting make them Protestants?

Re:Protesters need a communications plan (1)

onkelonkel (560274) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334164)

Sure. Just like reacting to things makes you a reactionary.

WHAT DO ARAB COWBOYS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THIS ?? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36333430)

JeeeHawwwddd !!

Giddie-up lil doggies !! Giddie-up !!

Fat-Wa !!

Alibaba !!

Moo-ohadine !!

FTFY (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36333476)

CWmike writes

"In what appears to be the latest bid by a government to throttle access to news and information amid growing civil unrest, the Slashdot website Friday shut down all Internet services and gave out 503 errors.

But the internet routes around any censorship (4, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#36333488)

I get so sick of hearing people say that the internet can't be censored (usually with some "The internet is *designed* to route around any censorship" crap). If a government wants to stop you from posting pics of you beating kids on the old internets, they don't have to develop some elaborate firewall that you and your hacker buddies can figure out how to bypass. All they have to do is show up at the handful of ISP's in the country with rifles and tell them to cut you off. No connection to your house, no internet for you.

Re:But the internet routes around any censorship (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36333544)

What about the satellites? Are they going to show up in space with rifles?

Re:But the internet routes around any censorship (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#36333928)

No. They just look for people with antennas, and send the men with rifles round there.

Re:But the internet routes around any censorship (2)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334504)

No. They just look for people with antennas, and send the men with rifles round there.

Err, not always that easy, either.

This is, after all, not a new game:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_resistance [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Orchestra_(espionage) [wikipedia.org]

...basically, even back in granddad's day, cat-and-mouse with radio signals were commonplace during wars and unrest. Now fast forward to today, where you only need to point a signal upwards, with a tighter beam and lower wattage than any WWII resistance radio operator could only dream of having.

Unless, say, Syria shingles the whole country 24/7 with flying radio triangulation equipment, they're going to have a real tough time spotting a well-camouflaged sat tranceiver hidden under a radio-friendly material.

considering DIY flying drones are now cheap (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 3 years ago | (#36337706)

i can see them doing something like this.

Re:But the internet routes around any censorship (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334986)

Unless you're the military, you still upload via some hardline - generally dial-up. The ability to download stuff via satellite means nothing if you don't have the means to send the download request.

Re:But the internet routes around any censorship (2)

Gordo_1 (256312) | more than 3 years ago | (#36333592)

Of course in the case of many of many middle eastern dictatorships, it doesn't hurt that there are only a handful of state-owned Internet entry points into the country in the first place.

Re:But the internet routes around any censorship (1)

CaptainPatent (1087643) | more than 3 years ago | (#36333604)

All they have to do is show up at the handful of ISP's in the country with rifles and tell them to cut you off. No connection to your house, no internet for you.

Not entirely true. While countries can make "the tubes" a hell of a lot slower, it's almost impossible to cut anyone off completely from the grid. Look at North Korea as an example. There's almost no internet access in the entire country itself, but we're starting to get more pictures and information from inside the country than ever before because people are more and more easily able to send information outside of the country by other wired, wireless, or even physical means (such as hurling DVDs or memory cards outside of the borders.)

They may be able to delay an inevitable revolution of sorts, but doing that is becoming much harder as we've seen from previous kill-switch scenarios.

Re:But the internet routes around any censorship (1)

satuon (1822492) | more than 3 years ago | (#36347850)

Also, a lot of people who live near the Chinese border in North Korea can make phone calls to the outside world because there is cell phone coverage coming from China that extends a few miles across the border.

Re:But the internet routes around any censorship (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36333748)

So they are cutting off all international calling as well?
They are shooting down satellites?
Checking all travelers at borders for any device which might contain data?
You could get a lot of tweets on a microsd card.

Re:But the internet routes around any censorship (1)

Graymalkin (13732) | more than 3 years ago | (#36333984)

They can easily do all of those things (save shoot down a satellite). Even with a satellite transceiver unless the average citizen had one before the fighting started along with an active account to be able to use it, most people don't have satellite internet access. Of course someone with such a transceiver could send messages for people but there's a pretty big danger there as the government might not have any qualms about putting a bullet in their forehead if they get caught.

Effective alternate communication systems are often only useful if they're active and in place before shit goes down. Trying to deploy such systems once martial law has been declared and fighting has started is extraordinarily difficult. Foreign nationals like members of the press aren't likely to be willing to smuggle messages out as they'll get shot on charges of espionage if the Syrian government suspects they're doing any smuggling.

None of that is to say information can't leak out from a country like Syria that cuts off the internet and closes their borders [wikipedia.org] but it's not easy. It's also not without its mortal dangers.

Re:But the internet routes around any censorship (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334186)

A microsd card is small enough it could easily be swallowed. I doubt they are opening all the mail, one could just be placed in a birthday card.

Sure they are, but the protesters know when the protests are. This means they can setup the channels ahead of time.

Re:But the internet routes around any censorship (1)

Graymalkin (13732) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334656)

So they are cutting off all international calling as well?
They are shooting down satellites?
Checking all travelers at borders for any device which might contain data?
You could get a lot of tweets on a microsd card.

You're asserting in your original comment that Syria somehow hasn't blocked off access to the outside world because they haven't shot down Inmarsat satellites or that you could shove a MicroSD card up your ass and pretend it's the internet.

Syria can effectively but their population off from the outside world but closing down internet and long distance telephone lines. For the tiny fraction of the population that have satellite transceivers available there's still a link to the outside but for a majority of the population they're entirely cut off. It's also fairly easy for them to clamp down on internal communications as they only need to send a few soldiers with rifles to the handful of television and radio stations that exist in any city. Shutting down phone lines also isn't terribly difficult since they can do the same thing with PSTN switches and endpoints. They exist in buildings and buildings can have their power shut off or their operators arrested.

Just because the Syrian government can't shoot down communication satellites or search everyone's rectum for MicroSD cards doesn't mean that they haven't effectively isolated their population from the rest of the world. I'm not sure what you're trying to suggest, shoving microchips up your ass isn't an effective means of communication. Besides, having people memorize the messages is more effective because memories don't show up on an x-ray.

have you heard of FAST? (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 3 years ago | (#36337718)

i just was futzing around with the wikipedia article about it.

they can't read your memory but they can tell your skin temperature, pitch of voice, eye movements, etc, and plug it into a computer to 'analyze' your veracity.

Re:But the internet routes around any censorship (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334426)

Hard to do a satellite transceiver in a country that is blocked on most technology export lists.

I suppose you could pay 2x for one and get it smuggled in, but 2x for an already expensive piece of equipment is a lot. Plus you need to find someone that will provision you without asking too many questions. A US-based provider would not do it for Syria again because of prohibitions on doing any business at all with Syria and people in Syria.

I suppose you could find someone in Europe that would ignore or pay off the right government people. Not like that hasn't happened before (Iraq, Iran, etc.) Only they would want a lot of money, far more than a quasi-legal Internet cafe might be able to generate.

I think the only people that could afford such an Internet connection would have to be in the government or affiliated with it already. There is no chance of the "common people" having access. And no, things are spread out enough over there that you aren't going to be able to use cell phone service near a border.

Re:But the internet routes around any censorship (1)

the entropy (1331573) | more than 3 years ago | (#36336206)

I'm Lebanese but currently residing in Syria, so I can tell you that yes, they're doing quite a bit of those.

Border controls have really been tightened, you are searched more than once. You could probably smuggle microsd cards, but you probably won't be able to travel back and forth without much delay and arousing a lot of suspicion(which means thorougher searching). Also, the whole point of things like tweets and the like is the fast access to information and ability to coordinate which is more than offset in this case. Also, there's the issue of disseminating the data once it's in the country. We weren't just cut off from the internet, all local routes were down as well. My DSL router would connect but I couldn't even ping the gateway.

As for international calling I'm not 100% sure about this but I strongly suspect that *all* international calls are listened in on. This suspicion is due to the fact that there are way too few international lines available at any point in time, calling home in the late afternoon is almost impossible, I sometimes need to re-try as much as 50 or 60 times for my call to connect. Also, there have been several cases of somebody's relatives calling to warn of trouble in a certain area and the call suddenly cutting off.

The only source of news right now appears to be satellite TV, which is very popular around here(one look at the roofs of any major city will confirm, I've even seen receivers mounted on A/C exhaust fans on the side of buildings because the roof couldn't fit any more). However, if need be, these can be jammed, Iran has already done this in similar situations. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_jamming [wikipedia.org]

As for satellite phones, yes, those do exist and are used in the country but they are illegal to own and you could face charges of spying and treason if found in possession of one, and as I said, border controls are tight(I've had my laptop turned on and searched several times at the border as well my phone checked and being asked about books in my possession).

PS: In case you were wondering, as of about 4 hours ago the internet has been working again.

Re:But the internet routes around any censorship (1)

MikeBabcock (65886) | more than 3 years ago | (#36333876)

You've heard of IP over shortwave right? Its always possible to connect.

you heard of Rhyolite right? (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334168)

all they have to do is to have a good relationship in someone whose own country runs satellites (or other SIGINT) spying on shortwave signals and then they basically track the internet back to the home station

Re:you heard of Rhyolite right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36334228)

[rolls eyes] Of course. A common felsic volcanic rock [wikipedia.org] . However, most of the ancient and historic volcanism in Syria is basaltic [si.edu] , and even if you could get a chunk of rhyolite in Syria I can't see how it is relevant unless you're going to carve a message in a block of it and then throw it over the border.

Oh, wait.

you heard of SSL, HTTPS, Tor, Freenet, I2P, right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36336670)

Yeah, they kinda help.

my question about encryption (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 3 years ago | (#36337704)

maybe the government cannot tell what information you are sending, but they can tell who you are sending it to, and how much you are sending.

even if they cant tell how much you are sending, they can tell this fact:

you are sending information out over an encrypted network, using tools designed to circumvent surveillance.

how do you work around that problem? if they can track the source of the electromagnetic transmission..... won't they investigate it?

Re:But the internet routes around any censorship (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36334002)

The internet in the conventional sense can be cut off the way you describe, but the flow of information via the internet takes more than chopping off one country. Even if it takes people with wireless routers sitting on either side of the border, modems and old-fashioned phone networks, or a sneakernet with flash drives, the information will get out, and from there onto the rest of the internet and the world. At best all they're going to do is slow the flow of information, not stop it. That *might* help the regime a little, but at the expense of showing just how desperate they are.

Re:But the internet routes around any censorship (1)

Confusador (1783468) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334016)

I don't understand what you're getting at, it looks to me like Syria's failing here was precisely in being able to censor the internet. Since they didn't have any way of stopping people with internet access from getting the information, so they had to cut everyone off from the internet. But the internet is still going, and anyone on it can still get the information. So, yes, the internet routes around damage, and treats censorship as damage. That doesn't help much if you're in the damaged section, but if the damage has a political cause it's not helping them gain popularity.

I'll grant that this is only true on a sufficiently small scale, if you throw resources at it constantly the way China does, then it's a different story.

Re:But the internet routes around any censorship (2)

Confusador (1783468) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334038)

I don't understand what you're getting at, it looks to me like Syria's failing here was precisely in being able to censor the internet. Since they didn't have any way of stopping people with internet access from getting the information, so they had to cut everyone off from the internet. But the internet is still going, and anyone on it can still get the information. So, yes, the internet routes around damage, and treats censorship as damage. That doesn't help much if you're in the damaged section, but if the damage has a political cause it's not helping them gain popularity.

I'll grant that this is only true on a sufficiently small scale, if you throw resources at it constantly the way China does, then it's a different story.

how would you do samizdat on the internet? (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334200)

the question is this. what if there were a worldwide sort of police state?

the internet architecture depends on certain nodes being up, and all of them are run by big corporations and/or government authorities.

if you go back to paper, or back further, to spoken word and oral history, you decentralize.

Re:But the internet routes around any censorship (1)

Smauler (915644) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334106)

All they have to do is show up at the handful of ISP's in the country with rifles and tell them to cut you off. No connection to your house, no internet for you.

Two words for you : Sattelite phones.

Re:But the internet routes around any censorship (3, Insightful)

grcumb (781340) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334730)

I get so sick of hearing people say that the internet can't be censored (usually with some "The internet is *designed* to route around any censorship" crap).

The Internet is designed to route around censorship. It's the physical networks [imagicity.com] that have choke points.

And no. this is not a distinction without a difference. As long as there are multiple routes to a destination, TCP/IP manages very well indeed, and allows the opportunity for all kinds of hard-to-track activity. But the vast majority of physical networks are built in the traditional telco format: Small pipes aggregating to big ones that pass through a single gateway, which is typically where the telco installs its toll booth and the government its censor. This topology is really the opposite of an end-to-end network, which is typically how we define the Internet.

The Internet is useful for two important things during an insurrection: To win the sympathy of the outside world, and to coordinate action. Ad hoc mesh networks would address the latter moderately well [imagicity.com] [*] (in urban areas) and smuggling high density media would work for the former. There is hope for the Internet yet, but it's not going to be realised as long as we leave it in the hands of telcos and governments.

--------------
[*] Of course, I'm not talking about typical North American consumer Internet. I'm talking about having any ability to communicate at all in the face of overwhelming censorship..

would ARP still work? (1)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | more than 3 years ago | (#36333520)

Maybe there's a lower level protocol that can be used somehow. Even if it's only 1 way, can you broadcast across a router without needing to know the next hop? you could spoof a mac in the ARP request to send a message eg: 20:00:56:DE:AD

Re:would ARP still work? (2)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 3 years ago | (#36333568)

ARP generally isn't a routable protocol, thus unless deliberately configured, the routers aren't going to pass an ARP packet. You've got a better chance of abusing ICMP to do what you want.

Re:would ARP still work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36335686)

ICMP-Chat - http://icmpchat.sourceforge.net/
I toyed with it a while ago, and it does work.

Re:would ARP still work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36333588)

You can't broadcast across a router

Re:would ARP still work? (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334044)

There may be some way to sneak a packet through using source routing, but even if that does work all it'd do is result in the government physically unplugging the cables. You won't be routing through that.

Re:would ARP still work? (1)

the entropy (1331573) | more than 3 years ago | (#36336210)

The routers were physically unplugged, I think. At first I could connect over DSL but couldn't even ping the gateway. However, later on, all I got from my DSL modem was 'link down' and that was that. It's working again today, as of about 4hrs ago.

I know how this story ends... (1)

elsurexiste (1758620) | more than 3 years ago | (#36333574)

Now that Syrians and journalists don't have the internet to inform them and keep in touch, they will pour down to the streets to do that. They will pull a Tahrir Square. Good for them!

In other news.... (1)

Trailer Trash (60756) | more than 3 years ago | (#36333646)

ARIN announced that IPv4 addresses haven't run out after all...

Stupid government! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36333652)

That is NOT how you remove internet access from your people! I mean, turning it all off overnight? Bloody amateurs!

Take a leaf from the venerable Monsieur Sarkozy to see how it's done. Uncontrolled internet access is hurting our artists! You access an image you're not supposed to -- like one of a child with mutilated genitals? Too bad, it's under copyright so you get your internet cut off. Totally your fault. Our artists need to make a living, too, you know. The point is, you do it GRADUALLY. Take it away a bit at a time. Suddenly turn off the internet and you're the guy who turned off the internet. But, build a system of laws to take it away slowly and nobody will even notice. That's how the G8 do it.

Time for AJE again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36333742)

Time to watch AlJazeeraEnglish again and shield those protesters with my eyeballs. That worked for the protesters in Egypt too...

I hope they can report from inside Syria somehow. :(

UN declares Internet access a human right (2)

davidwr (791652) | more than 3 years ago | (#36333764)

From: U.N. Report Declares Internet Access a Human Right [wired.com]

The report, by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, comes the same day an internet-monitoring firm detected that two thirds of Syria's internet access has abruptly gone dark, in what is likely a government response to unrest in that country.

Full report, dated 15 May 2011: Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue [ohchr.org]

Re:UN declares Internet access a human right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36334102)

AFAIAC, the infrastructure of the internet will have to be controlled by a representative body, if we are going to accept the net as a basic human right. This means either providing the hardware, or appropriating that which is already in place.
Personally, I'd like to see cooperative fibre laid down; a publicly owned, funded, and maintained infrastructure seems like the best alternative to the current oligopoly.

Re:UN declares Internet access a human right (2)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334660)

That doesn't mean shit. The UN is the same group that puts countries that are most responsible for the oppression of women, leading womens rights councils, and countries that are the most oppressive against other religions to lead religious freedom.

The UN? Is a sick, perverse, fucking joke, and quickly heading towards a second league of nations. I haven't quite figured out yet if it'll take another world war to do it yet though.

riiiiight. . . (1)

jafac (1449) | more than 3 years ago | (#36333770)

. . . . because this worked sooo well for Egypt!

RFC1149 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36333844)

We will smuggle DVDs in the streets, we will trade thumbdrives in buses, we will broadcast with homemade radios, we will even implement RFC1149!

Never will we surrender our data.

Lesson for dictators everywhere (4, Interesting)

Spy Handler (822350) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334100)

If you are a dictator, reasonably smart and been paying attention to current events, the following points should be occuring to you:

1. Be like Mike... er, I mean China.... be proactive about the interwebs. Put in a nationwide firewall, slowly censor the net so that stuff like twitter, facebook, gmail, etc. are not accessible to most of the normal population (i.e. non-geeks). This helps you avoid having to shut off the whole thing off later when the riots in the street reach epic levels.

Encouraging domestic, tightly-regulated and spied upon alternative companies, like China's Baidu and Renren, to substitute for the blocked USAsian sites is a bonus.

2. Never relinquish power, and be ruthless. Your only other option is imprisonment or death.

Nice guys like Mubarak who voluntarily give up power and refuse to annihilate protesters with cluster bombs end up getting arrested for (insert reason here). Kadaffi seems to have learned this lesson well.

3. Get nukes, and get them fast. If you don't, you can be bombed, invaded and arrested by USA/NATO at their whim. North Koreans and Iranians know this. Saddam didn't, and look what happened to him. Kadaffi is finding out right now the hard way.

This last one is a shame, and wouldn't be necessary if our leaders took to heart the founding fathers' plea about avoiding entangling alliances, not getting involved in the territorial disputes of Europe (and by extension the Middle East which is like 18th century Europe squared), be a friend of liberty everywhere but guardians only of our own. But noooo, Dubya had to avenge his father's wimpy mistake and prove to the world his dick size, and Obama had to... well I have no idea what motivates him but he is diving headlong into the Mideast and proving himself a clone of Dubya.

Re:Lesson for dictators everywhere (1)

lidocaineus (661282) | more than 3 years ago | (#36337176)

"... to substitute for the blocked USAsian sites is a bonus."

I stopped reading the moment you used that ridiculous, immature term referring to people that live in the USA.

History may repeat: (2)

Hartree (191324) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334196)

The name that worries me is Hama. It's a city in Syria where there was an uprising nearly two decades ago.

Hafez Assad (the father of the current president Bashir Assad) ordered the city of Hama to be put to the sword in 1982. Low estimates of the death toll for that one are 10K, with regime members boasting of much higher totals.

The Syrian regime has the advantage that the people in the regime and in control positions of hte military are largely Alawites, unlike the majority Sunnis. Thus, they'll be less likely to shy away from attacking the populace than say, the Egyptian Army was.

I'm not sure Bashir Assad will feel he has all that much to lose if the uprisings have indeed reached a state that seriously threatens his regime. He may resort to a family tradition.

Wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hama_massacre [wikipedia.org]

Re:History may repeat: (1)

the entropy (1331573) | more than 3 years ago | (#36336224)

It may repeat but it's highly unlikely. Right now the two cities that were involved in the 1979-1982 unrest, namely, Hama and Aleppo have been mostly calm(Hama only yesterday started to figure in the news). Victims usually have good memories.

If Aleppo and Hama do rise up however, chances are that the regime will fall apart but it will not be able to repeat its 1982 massacre. In '82 the world was still bipolar with Syria firmly in the USSR's sphere of influence, also, 1982 was a year of considerable unrest in the whole region and mainly in Lebanon to the south-west(with Israel invading 4 month later in June and getting entangled with the Syrian military there). Hafez was much freer to do as he pleased, Bashar(and it's not Bashir btw, just a small correction) is definitely not as free. Currently, the US is seizing this as a chance to force him to weaken or break his alliance with Iran on the one hand and Hezbollah on the other. As Syria provides the crucial link between those two this could be a major win for the US and it is definitely seizing this opportunity to pressure Bashar and it will not allow him to put down large scale demonstrations. Despite what people watching the western news may think, those have not happened yet. In a country of 22million ~10~50k demonstrators simply isn't much(Lebanon's 4~5mil pulled of >1mil demonstrations in 2005 to demand the departure of the Syrian military).

Re:History may repeat: (1)

Hartree (191324) | more than 3 years ago | (#36339154)

I agree with much of what you say. The current unrest hasn't reached a level that's a big threat.

My point is just that the previous actions in Hama provide a precedent. Some of those involved are still in the government. If things go sour for the Syrian regime, officials can point to Hama and say that it was fairly successful, had limited international fallout, and that it may be an effective option once again.

The Muslim Brotherhood was smashed by the Hama massacre and so wounded that for 20 years it wasn't a major problem for the government.

Further, I don't see the US and others to be in a position to intervene to stop such a move. Libya was possible because Gaddhafi had alienated so many world leaders and was a small enough player that UN action wasn't vetoed.

Syria is a very different case. They have a much more effective military that would take large forces to overcome, even if it was fractured between two sides. They also have much stronger ties to veto wielding members of the UN.

Unlike Libya, there's little chance of a refugee crisis coming directly to Europe, thus less to induce them to participate in an intervention.

A unilateral US intervention is unlikely due to the heavy deployment of forces in other theaters. Yes, we have forces next door in Iraq, but the fallout would be large. An Israeli ground intervention would be geopolitical dynamite and they'd be very unlikely to be welcomed by any side of a Syrian civil war.

The record of the past indicates Syria would pay a high international cost for such an action, but that would only last a few years. Compared to losing its position on top, the Alawite regime might consider that acceptable.

Re:History may repeat: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36347912)

Wikipedia link about history. You might as well make stuff up.

Re:History may repeat: (1)

Hartree (191324) | more than 3 years ago | (#36355034)

So, which version from Syrian state media do you prefer?

The one in which they were boasting of smashing the opposition, or the one in which they were playing down the numbers?

On Feb 24th 1982 the NY Times wrote: "The statement - a message of support from the Hama branch of the Baath Party to President Hafez al-Assad -said Government and party security forces ''taught the murderers a lesson that has snuffed out their breath.''"

This isn't prehistory to me. I was 20 at the time and kept track of geopolitics. Hama was known then. The extent of it wasn't so clear. And the memory of it was at least partly eclipsed by the Lebanon war later that year.

Don't just go to Wikipedia. Follow up the sources. Don't get sidetracked that a lot of them from the Wikipedia article are from Robert Fisk. There are many other accounts from more mainstream sources.

Dictator jr (1)

slick7 (1703596) | more than 3 years ago | (#36334234)

Like father, like son. The apple didn't fall too far from that tree.

Syria down (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36334732)

I am looking at the interface now, I have down / up. Will fix when soldiers fight somewhere else.

Ad Hoc Mesh Network (1)

Phoenix666 (184391) | more than 3 years ago | (#36335182)

Since Egypt I've been wondering about the feasibility of ad-hoc mesh networks. With plentiful wifi nodes and smartphones it seems like it would be somewhat possible to have them relay packets to maintain connectivity. You'd need to implement discretionary throttling for the individual owner of the wifi node / smartphone so their personal usage doesn't suffer too much.

But as long as you have enough people within typical cell tower range of an international border beyond which the regime has no repressive control, there would be no way for a government to prevent internet communications short of confiscating every computer, wifi node, and smartphone in the country. I don't think any government has the ability to do that quickly enough to suppress a mass social movement like this.

Slashdot blinkers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36336136)

Don't look at Bahrain. Move along, nothing to see.

Funny how Syrian torture was OK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36336170)

when it was being done on behalf of the US 'War on Terror'

Religious context (1)

bryan1945 (301828) | more than 3 years ago | (#36336238)

Religion has been a controversial, deadly, and dividing issue throughout history. In the western world, we had the Lutheran split from the Catholic church. Later on in the US the KKK was once based on religion more than racism. There are still anti-Jewish sentiments abounding, i.e. "The Jews planned 9/11." And of course we still have the wacky religious nuts, such as the Westboro picketing nuts and that guy who predicted the 'Rapture.'

The thing is, Christianity hasn't really gone all genocidal (religious-cidal?) since the Crusades? Please correct me if I'm wrong.
But as several posters have stated, a lot of the conflict in the middle east in based on Sunni vs Shi'ite beliefs. These differences is one of the things I have on my list to read about, but haven't yet. Is it something like Protestant vs Catholic beliefs; mostly the same but with some small differences?

Basically, my main point is- grow the hell up and just let everyone have their own damn beliefs. And don't base your government on religion. I know, I know, don't place my beliefs on other cultures. But have we ever seen religious rule ever work out in the history of humans?

Re:Religious context (1)

Bongo (13261) | more than 3 years ago | (#36336360)

This is very controversial, but I'll post it as a pointer rather than because I know it to be true. You can split any view down into whether it allows questioning and reinterpretation, and whether it doesn't. A lot of people from various faiths will say that you have to read the texts and interpret them to find something good in them. You might look for the spirit of something that was written two thousand years ago in different life conditions and which has been messed up my multiple reinterpretations since. So Ok they retain their faith, because on some level they believe in spirituality, but they also know they are interpreting the texts, so the texts are open to question. This kind of religious person just gets along. The other kind doesn't believe in interpretation, they believe the text is read literally, and actually, they don't realise that they themselves are interpreting the text when they read it (their own subjective interpretation)

Now, the Arab Islamic world had both types in it, those who would interpret and those who took it literally. So they had a big formal theological debate about it. The interpreters said that it was a text written by men at an earlier time and you had to translate it to use it properly in the present. The other side, the literalists, said that the text was not written, the text was "unwritten" and exists forever as the mind of god. Well, they had a big debate and the literalists won. So, Islam had that debate and the literalists won it a thousand years ago and haven't changed since.

One of the arguments the literalists made was that you can be as clever as you like trying to reinterpret texts, but if someone else has more power and can just kill you, what difference does it make? So they only thing to worry about, they reasoned, was seizing power. Seize power and force everyone to submit to the one true "unwritten true forever" text. Hence the violent aspects of the text (which were written by a tribal warrior because back in the day, that's what people did) are especially well preserved even in the MODERN day.

Re:Religious context (1)

Pentagram (40862) | more than 3 years ago | (#36336634)

Syria's government isn't really based on religion. The governing regime is from the same minority religious group (Alawite), but that's more to do with corruption and cronyism than any strong religious belief.

Syria is a pretty free country so far as religion goes. It is a culturally Muslim country so women can't sit in the front of taxis/wear bikinis etc. but there's no problem if you want to go to church or be an atheist (even Jews living in Syria is acceptable, at least in theory).

There are religious tensions in Syria but really that's the least of their problems at the moment. The regime likes to raise the spectre of protests being religiously inspired but the protestors have been doing their best to demonstrate their unity cuts across these lines.

Re:Religious context (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36336708)

"The thing is, Christianity hasn't really gone all genocidal (religious-cidal?) since the Crusades?"

The Hundred Years' War between Catholicism and Protestantism wrecked Europe. It was partly because it was still recent memory in the 1700s that the American Founding Fathers insisted on the separation between church and state.

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