Control the Internet, Control the Narrative

If you’ve been following the Syrian conflict for almost the last 4 years, you’ve heard about the intermittently working Syrian Internet. Especially in the early days of the revolution, internet disconnection rhymed with fear of massacres for activists. The Assad regime has repeatedly disconnected [1] regions from the Internet before doing an assault to control the narrative of the events.

Yesterday, as Turkish soldiers entered Syria heading to the Suleyman Shah tomb, the Internet peering that connects Northern Syria with Turkey was offline. It came back in the morning around 8:40 AM UTC.

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The Aleppo region and most of Northern Syria is connected by a network (technically called AS for Autonomous System) operated by the Syrian Computer Society. Interestingly, Northern Syria is not directly peered with networks operated by the Syrian Telecommunications Establishment. Instead, the Syrian Computer Society has a single peer, Turk Telecom. It means that information control in Northern Syria is very easy. If that single peering is disconnected, the whole region goes offline.

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It could be a coïncidence but given the track record of Turkey regarding Internet censorship and timing of events that is very unlikely. If you have any more information about how the peering was dropped, feel free to reach out on Twitter.

[1] : Although the regime was to blame for almost all internet disconnections to date, the November 2012 instance was attributed to NSA as their elite hacker team failed to hack a core-internet router resulting in nation-wide disconnection.