As violence escalates, Libya cuts off the Internet

The Libyan government is using the same tactics tried in Egypt three weeks ago to suppress dissent

With violence escalating, Libya is pulling the plug on its Internet connection.

Libya's main Internet service provider, General Post and Telecommunications Company, began to cut Internet access on Friday, said Earl Zmijewski, general manager with Internet monitoring company Renesys. "They started pulling the plug around 23:18 UTC today and are currently largely off the air," he said via e-mail. That was 1:18 a.m. Saturday, local time.

Libya appears to be taking its cue from Egypt, which cut off all Internet access at the end of January as it was roiled by street protests calling for political reform.

In similar fashion, thousands of Libyans took to the streets in the city of Benghazi this week in protests that have led to 46 killings in the past three days, according to Amnesty International.

As the situation has escalated, Internet traffic has been cut, making it difficult to get a picture of the situation on the ground.

Libya is much smaller than Egypt, with fewer networks to unplug, and it appears that this has made the job of cutting Internet access much simpler.

Agence France Press reported Friday that Facebook was inaccessible from Tripoli, Libya's capital, and that "access to the Internet was intermittent."

Posts to on Twitter and the blog TechCrunch reported similar problems. Software publisher NeoSmart Technolgies, citing "friends" in Libya, said the government ordered Internet service providers in the country to block most Web access. "Currently, most websites are unavailable and Internet access is, by and large, being blocked," the company said in a blog post.

Robert McMillan covers computer security and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Robert on Twitter at @bobmcmillan. Robert's e-mail address is robert_mcmillan@idg.com

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