‘Blackout’: Syria cut off from internet

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

Syria has “largely disappeared” from the internet for the second time since the uprising began in 2011, according to the U.S. State Department and tech firms monitoring web traffic.

There was “zero outgoing traffic” from the country Tuesday night, according to Google Transparency Report.

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

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

“We’ve reactivated Speak2Tweet,” Christine Chen, Google Communication senior manager, told Al Arabiya.

Chen said all Google services are currently inaccessible in 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 as it does not require internet access, Chen said.

However, it does require a phone connection. The user dials the international numbers provided by Google from any landline or mobile phone, then leaves a voice message which is posted on the Speak2Tweet page that people are able to listen to.

Moaaz al-Hamwi, a Syrian businessman living outside the country, said he finds no point in Speak2Tweet.

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

Hamwi, who left his family in Syria 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 in the country.

“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’ll tell me they’re OK?”

Meanwhile, a source from the Syrian mobile telecommunications provider MTN said telecom companies had been accused of “purposefully” disconnecting the country from the internet.

"Although we are not in touch with the outside world because of our Internet outage, we are certain that we have been accused of purposefully disconnecting the country from cyber world," the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.

"It's normal to us, it happened previously when our internet optical cable got damaged. After all, it is made in China. We will get ourselves plugged back up, and we'll be running as soon as the technical problem is fixed," the source added.
 

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:40 - GMT 06:40
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