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Blackout: Syria cut off from global Internet as civil war rages

The internet outage in the war-torn country was reported by Google Transparency Report, which tracks internet traffic. (Reuters)

By Katherine Jane O’Neill / 8 May 2013

The world woke up to the news on Wednesday, that Syria has “largely disappeared” from the internet world for the second time since the uprising began in 2011, according to U.S. tech firms monitoring Web traffic and the State Department.

The internet outage in the war-torn country was reported by Google Transparency Report, which tracks internet traffic, at 9:45 p.m. local Syria time. Google reported “zero outgoing traffic” from the country.

“Syria is currently experiencing an internet blackout as of this [Tuesday] afternoon,”a State Department tweet added.

As a result of the outage, Google and Twitter has re-launched an old service that aimed to help isolated Syrians communicate with the world in November 2012.

“Indeed, we have reactivated Speak2Tweet,”said Google Communication Senior Manager Christine Chen in an interview with Al Arabiya.

Chen said all Google services are currently inaccessible in the Syria, “we can’t speculate on the reasons,” she added.

On the ground

According to Syrians inside the country, contacted by Al Arabiya, they were notified by the Syrian telecommunication company that there had been a “malfunction in the optical cable” that affected services across the country.

This does not affect the Speak2Tweet service, however.

Chen explained that this particular service does not require internet accessibility. However, it does require a phone connection. The user dials the international numbers, provided by Google, from any landline or mobile phone and then the caller leaves a voice message which is posted on the Speak2Tweet page that people are able to listen to.

Syrian businessman, Moaaz al-Hamwi, said he finds no point in the Speak2Tweet service.

“I really thank everyone who is doing everything possible to help us [Syrians], but this is not helping. I called and left many messaged using this system, but how will they hear me when they can’t even make local phone calls?”

The 37-year-old, who left his family at the end of April to travel to Doha on a business contract, said he could not think of anything worse than the current situation.

“My hometown just witnessed an Israeli airstrike and is witnessing ongoing shelling daily… the only way I was able to leave my family behind is because I knew I could be with them online 24/7. Now who will tell me they are ok?”

 

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