Technical Study of the Internet Shutdown in Burma

The Open Net Initiative has just produced a brief technical study of the Burmese government’s internet censorship, including a complete shutdown from September 29 through October 4.

Allow me to spoil the report’s ending for you:

While the [Burmese government] has exacerbated its legacy of massive human rights violations through this crackdown, many believe that the breakthrough uses of the Internet over this period have enabled some irreversible gains. Multiple generations of Burmese living locally and abroad have found linkages to each other as blogging became increasingly recognized as a valuable source of information. One Burmese leader characterizes this gain as the forging of a link between the leaders of the generation that participated in [the 1988 student-led democratic movement], many of whom were jailed or exiled, and the new generation of activists in Burma.

Burmese netizens, operating in a constrained and challenging space in a country with especially low Internet penetration rates, have demonstrated that the tools of information technology can have a strong impact on the global coverage of events as they are unfolding, and sometimes on the events themselves. The events in Burma also provide a chilling example of the limitations of the Internet, access to which was ultimately vulnerable to the unilateral choices of a repressive regime. However, even the vast majority of Burmese without access to or knowledge of the Internet may have benefited from the enduring achievement of a small band of citizen bloggers and journalists—the uploading of vital, relevant information to the Internet was broadcast back in via television and radio and spread through personal networks and communities throughout the country.

In 1988, the government killed 3,000 protesters, and the activists had little recourse to communicate their message to the outside world. Now, disturbing images, like this footage of the murder of a Japanese photographer, are seen around the globe.

This makes the study of American internet politics seem downright frivolous.