We often talk in this blog about the potential of the internet. Mostly we discuss the internet’s ability to usher in a new era of technological advancements. Yes, the internet is a major economic driver. It is also the primary tool for global communication and content. Access to it can increase education, spark civic engagement and be a major contributor to human rights.
Unfortunately, as we see far too often, that access can be taken away.
Most of the time this is through malicious attacks, natural disasters or undersea cable cuts. We monitor these situations because we want to prevent our customers from experiencing any downtime that could impact their business. But increasingly these issues extend beyond commerce and impact people’s lives. And sometimes the outage is not caused by an unknown hacker but by the government.
This is what happened recently in the small African country of Gabon, where the government imposed a communications shut down following the slim reelection of president Ali Bongo. The government’s thinking: no internet, no way for the opposition to protest the results.
Once the results of the election were announced, the people of Gabon flooded the streets to protest. The government ordered an Internet blackout that lasted 104 hours – – the longest such nationwide blackout since Libya during the Arab Spring in 2011.
Once service was restored, the government then imposed an unprecedented ‘Internet curfew’ which suspended all Internet service between the hours of 6pm and 6am local. When service was up during the day, access to social media was blocked – that is, except from President Ali Bongo who continued tweeting his case to the world. This Internet curfew lasted for 23 days until Ali Bongo was sworn in to another term as president in the past week.
It was Dyn’s own Director of Internet Analysis, Doug Madory, who was among the first to report that the internet in Gabon was shut down. That news received global coverage in publications like BuzzFeed, Quartz, CNN and VICE.
In many ways, Madory and his team at Dyn are oracles of the internet – watching the disruptions and volatility happening around the world on a daily basis. Madory has reported similar outages in Iraq and Syria this year.
“The government-directed outages in Gabon are part of a worrying trend in Africa in the past year,” said Madory, who pointed to numerous recent incidents where internet communications were restricted either during or following contested national elections around the continent.
Doug’s work in exposing this shutdown was praised by the African internet community.
Dyn’s platform for Internet Performance Management offers tools that can help companies ensure performance on a volatile internet. It is our passion to offer solutions to our customers because we know the products and services they are delivering are making the world a better place. We are helping them, help people. Every now and then it is nice to do that directly.
It is rewarding when our tools can help to promote conversations on human rights and expose injustices around the world. We like think of ourselves as stewards of the internet – working hard to improve the performance of our customers and global end users – and so we often report on geopolitical issues.
Thanks to Doug and his team for being so vigilant – for our customers and for all of us.
Adam Coughlin is the Director of Corporate Communications for Dyn, a cloud-based Internet Performance company that helps companies monitor, control, and optimize online infrastructure for an exceptional end-user experience. Follow Adam on Twitter: @AdamCoughlin and @Dyn.