As of today, internet in Syria is reported at least partially restored, according to tech blog CloudFlare. The blackout began on Thursday, Novemeber 29, with a sudden shutdown of all traffic from Syria to the rest of the internet. In addition, some cellphone connections were reported shut off.
While connectivity may have been repaired, the cause of the blackout remains uncertain, and the implications are grim. Syria’s bitter civil war has been ongoing for 20 months, and this event may mark something of a new phase. While Syrian officials have publicly blamed “terrorists” for the shutdown, analysts speculate that it is much more likely to have been the responsibility of President Bashar al-Assad and his government as a blow against rebel forces, for whom the internet has served as a vital source of information and communication.
For many of us, it’s difficult to imagine what it would be like to live in a reality where something as integral to our lives and fundamental to our freedom as the internet can be simply taken away. Email, social media, news, blogs and forums are only some examples of the venues we now depend on for personal and political liberty, and yet take for granted every day.
While we may not be at risk of a blackout, our internet access and identities are always vulnerable. We’re lucky to have ways of protecting them.