Saturday, 19 February 2011

Has Bahrain shut down the Internet or reduced it?

It is 7:15 AM Bahrain time. We have been tracking elevated levels of tweeting in Bahrain all day, but now we see almost no tweets with Bahrain geo-tags.

We called out on the #Bahrain hashtag for any people in country who could tell us if this was due to a shut down. One tweeter told us that service is very slow. Two others said people were tired but they could not be sure. We are seeing few people from Bahrain on Twitter.

The next few hours will be key to determine if people are just sleeping, or if the Regime has moved against the telecommunications infrastructural of the nation. The Regime has been surprising in its ruthlessness since the crisis started and we would not be surprised if they have adopted a new strategy of trying to cut the nation from communications.

Nothing has worked so far. If they think this will work they are foolish. Egypt showed that social networks formed online have the ability to move in to the real world very quickly. Clay Shirky has said that all online social networks either become real world networks or vanish.

In Egypt the shutting off the Internet only served to strengthen bonds formed in those networks and motivate people further.

Noon Bahrain time, Saturday: Update, at noon Bahrain time we are seeing many fewer geo-tagged tweets than most of yesterday in Bahrain.

This could be because the government is putting pressure on the Internet, trying to reduce it. The current low levels are about what we think people would be able to "work around" in the face of massive state crackdown on the Internet. People could be using SMS messages or dial ups to other nations, and some people with work ISPs might be taking passwords of their WiiFii. These strategies kept a trickle of tweets coming from Tahrir Square even when the primary Internet was shut down in Egypt.

We also saw in Egypt that as the protests became more intense, a pattern of heavy nights and light mornings with tweeting build during the day developed. This may just be the natural patter of a revolution. But as someone reminded us on Twitter last night, this may just be how heavy tweeters live their lives. "Up late at night and wake at 11" is what one Tweeter in Kuwait told us was her take on our numbers.

We will continue to follow this story today.

UPDATE We have just identified a mass collect of people tweeting at Jeblat Hebshi, Bahrain west of the main city. Track here. This is where yesterdays mass protests grouped, and these are very high levels not only for Bahrain but for almost any city. Plus the are against much lower levels in other parties of the city. We suspect a group is organizing themselves west of Pearl Roundabout for another large demonstration.

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