Passport

‘Someone in Libya is still watching YouTube’

As we noted last week, Internet service has been shut down in Libya,  but the implementation is quite different from the Internet blackout put in place by Hosni Mubarak’s regime last month. Rather than cutting off traffic at the router level, the Libyan authorities are diverting traffic going through the country’s Internet. James Cowie of ...

Trevor Snapp/AFP/Getty Images
Trevor Snapp/AFP/Getty Images

As we noted last week, Internet service has been shut down in Libya,  but the implementation is quite different from the Internet blackout put in place by Hosni Mubarak’s regime last month. Rather than cutting off traffic at the router level, the Libyan authorities are diverting traffic going through the country’s Internet. James Cowie of Renesys discusses why this strategy is actually far more sophisticated

[T]he Libyan Internet is actually still alive, even though almost all traffic is blocked from traversing it. The BGP routes to Libya are still intact, which means that the Libyan ISP’s border routers are powered on and the fiberoptics are lit. In fact, we’ve identified a handful of isolated live IP addresses inside Libya, responding to ping and traceroute, and presumably passing traffic just fine. Someone in Libya is still watching YouTube, even though the rest of the country is dark.

Why did Libya put its Internet in ‘warm standby mode’ instead of just taking it down, as Egypt did? Perhaps because they’re learning from Mubarak’s experience. Cutting off the Internet at the routing level (powering down the Internet exchange point, going after the remaining providers with secret police to enact a low-level shutdown) was a technically unsophisticated desperation move on Egypt’s part. It signalled to the world that the Egyptian government considered itself out of options, ready to cut off internal communications and external dialogue, looking for a last chance to turn off all the cameras and clean out the Square.[…]

Throttling the Internet to the point of uselessness, instead of killing it outright, also delayed International recognition of the fact that the Internet was down during the most critical period. Most international media didn’t clue into the fact that the Libyan Internet had gone silent until after the sun had gone down in Tripoli on Friday. By taking a softer route to shutdown, the government deprived the opposition of much of the international "flash crowd" of attention and outrage that an unambiguous "kill switch" tactic might have garnered.

In a 2009 piece — "The Autocrats’ Learning Curve" — Jeffrey Wasserstrom discussed how the Chinese Communist Party had adapted and ultimately benefited from observing the Eastern European anticommunist revolutions. During the current wave of revolutions, social networking technologies have, as promised, boosted the speed and global reach of antiauthoritarian activists. But as we’re increasingly seeing, the autocrats are adapting faster as well. 

Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola

By Taboola

More from Foreign Policy

By Taboola