When Governments Throttle the Web: Timeline of Internet Blackouts

Posted: 14th May 2013
When Governments Throttle the Web: Timeline of Internet Blackouts

Cutting internet access has proven to be a favorite, if ineffective and costly, tactic for under fire dictators in recent years as social movements coalesce on the web. But the larger dominoes of the Arab Spring – Egypt, Libya, and Syria – aren’t the only states to experience internet blackouts as attempted crowd control.

We’ve put together a timeline using Recorded Future that shows internet cut offs by country between 2007 and 2013. Click the image for an interactive look:

To call out a few events that predate the Arab Spring internet blackouts in Egypt and Libya as well as the ongoing disruptions in Syria:

  • Internet access in Myanmar was cut off on Sept. 28, 2007, two days after troops opened fire on pro-democracy protesters and images of the crackdown were plastered on Web sites.
  • For nearly the entire second half of 2009, the inhabitants of China’s the Xinjiang region were cut off from the Internet as part of an attempt to stifle civic unrest.
  • On Feb 10, 2010, Iranian authorities drastically reduced internet service in the country, cut off text messaging services and even cracked down on Google.

The challenges these internet blackouts pose are many: from increased insecurity for those on the ground to a likely rash of misinformation for the global community. But as Jim Cowie, CTO of Renesys, was quoted by NBC News: “Taking away the Internet brings attention to people’s protests in a way the protests by themselves can’t muster… How do you make everybody care? Turn off the Internet.”