It's getting downright predictable as the formerly moderate government of Bahrain joins the likes of Iran and Egypt by cracking down on the Internet access within the country.
of anti-government protests, another wave of Internet crackdowns. This time,
the crackdown appears to be happening in Bahrain.
demonstrations enter Day 4 in the small island nation of Bahrain, it appears
the government is severely restricting Internet access within the country,
Arbor Networks told eWEEK. Internet traffic data showed Bahrain traffic was
"averaging a pronounced 10 to 20 percent" reduction from normal levels, the
company said. The data measures the amount of information flowing in and out of
Bahrain via the country's Internet backbone.
have this mistaken idea that the way to shut down the Internet generation is to
shut down the Internet," said Eben Moglen
, a law professor at Columbia
University and an Internet Freedom advocate. It's the "wrong path," he said.
unprecedented shutdown by Egypt on Jan. 27, Bahrain appears to be merely increasing
Web filtering. "Data from 100 Internet providers around the world suggests
Bahrain has significantly increased its filtering of Internet traffic in
response to growing political unrest," said Arbor Networks.
average Bahrain traffic over the previous three weeks, traffic fell off
dramatically on Feb. 14 and has continued to decline. Sunday traffic volume was
consistent with the previous weeks, but volume was still significantly lower
than the average on Feb. 16, when Arbor Networks shared the data.
collects Internet traffic data from about 120 worldwide Internet Service
Providers into its ATLAS (Active Threat Level Analysis System) network.
technical problems with a Bahraini ISP could not be ruled out entirely, it seems
the most likely explanation is that Bahrain is closing off access. There have
been reports from Al-Jazeera and several reporters within Bahrain saying
various sites, including YouTube and Bambuser, are blocked.
The New York Times
columnist Nicolas Kristof
, who is reporting from Bahrain,
posted on Twitter on Feb. 16, "Why slow the Internet? The Bahrain government
view seems to be that if it isn't uploaded on YouTube, it hasn't happened."
Kristof said his hotel doesn't have any Internet access as of Feb. 17.
In a strongly
worded speech at George Washington University, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
countries to stop restricting Internet access, stop censoring content, and to
protect a "free and open Internet."
Customers of Batelco, the largest telecommunications company
in the country, have complained about a "degradation" in their high-speed
"Many believe it is the direct action of the government
to curtail the widespread and growing movement against peaceful demonstrators,"
reported Bikya Masr, a Middle Eastern news site.
is a major stockholder in Batelco, which acknowledged the problem on its Website,
but gave no explanation. The company said it hopes to "restore full services"
to customers "as soon as possible."
telecommunications company, blamed its service problems on "extremely high
usage" of the Internet-as people download and upload videos and watch live
feeds of protests and rallies, according to a Feb. 17 piece in The Gulf Daily News
, a Bahrain English newspaper.
shied away from shutting down Websites or bloggers in the past. Last fall, two
news Websites, Bahrain Breaking News and Muhannad Group, were ordered to cease
operations because they weren't licensed by the Information Affairs Authority,
according to ITP.net
whoever he is, will compromise Bahrain's bright image," the authority said in a
statement that appeared in the ITP story.
Kristof's Twitter feed, the government is trying to get him fired or
discredited for his reporting. "Yes, I'm documenting Bahrain crackdown
video, photos, sound. I'm on the move to get these out before government
to realize that "people you don't see" could serve as a
"powerful part of your social network," Moglen said, noting that being
able to connect with others online "accelerates" the sense of
solidarity for a cause.
Nearly half the
Bahrainis are connected to the Internet, with about 419,500 Internet users as
of 2009, according to the CIA World Factbook. A little less than half of those
users had broadband last year, according to the country's Telecommunications
government hasn't confirmed or denied the latest action.