Arik Hesseldahl

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Libya Is Once Again The Internet’s Black Hole

It’s often said that in war, truth is the first casualty. While people aren’t generally referring to the popular rebellion taking place in Libya as a war, at least not yet, truth, or least the the free flow of information has certainly been affected once again.

Repeating a move it made last week, the government of Muammar Gaddafi has once again taken itself off the Internet, according to Renesys, an Internet research firm, and Google’s Transparency Report.

Renesys says its traceroute pings — which are used to measure network heath and uptime — show that the connections remain live, but that traffic is apparently being intercepted as it reaches Libyan territory and sent into something of a black hole. Technically speaking this is different from what happened in Egypt last month, where servers were though to have have been simply shut down.

The Internet may seem secondary right now giving the gravity of events taking place there today, but the flow of correct information always becomes valuable — and therefore vulnerable — in the heat of violence such as this. Today there were reports of forces loyal to Gaddafi firing on people taking part in protests after Friday prayers, with dozens killed and scores more wounded. Meanwhile there was more fighting in the rebel-held town of Zawiya. Government forces tried to retake the town today, and as many as 35 were reported killed, with still more wounded.

It’s also unclear if, as was the case with Egypt, if wireless phone networks have been affected. The Wall Street Journal has a more complete report on the situation there.