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  • December 2012
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When a government can shut off the internet…

At the very end of November, as part of its ongoing bloody and brutal civil war, Syria’s government shut down the internet for the entire country.  According to the Christian Science Monitor, this was an “unprecedented” event.  The move led to more riots against the regime, not less, and the government blamed unidentified “terrorists”.

By Ronald Eikelenboom (Flickr: (no) internet) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Ronald Eikelenboom (Flickr: (no) internet) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Shutting down a nation’s internet service is unprecedented because goes against the history of how the internet was developed.  Although the internet predecessors ARPANET and DARPA were government projects, the theory of the internet, grown in the 60s (a fuller, more specific history can be read here) was based on the idea that it would be a network of “multiple independent networks of rather arbitrary design” with one of its groud rules being that “there would be no global control at the operations level.” (Quotes from The Internet Society, “Brief History of the Internet”)  This was practical – if another country attacked the U.S., it could not take out its networked communications all at once.

And yet, now Syria just did the same thing to itself!

Ideas of how networked technology can be manipulated– and the power it gives people and governments– have been popping up in excellent books for a long time.  Here are some good ones that are recently published.

Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson


a story of an elite hacker living in an unnamed Middle Eastern state in the throes of political upheaval. He gets involved with the wrong girl, who sends him a very old book to keep safe, and he learns the hard way about worlds beyond this one, jinn, and if he really wants to figure out what he believes in.

Zahra’s Paradise by Amir & Khalil


Zahra’s Paradise is the fictional story of the search for Mehdi, a young protestor who has disappeared in the Islamic Republic’s gulags. Mehdi has vanished in an extrajudicial twilight zone where habeas corpus is suspended. What stops his memory from being obliterated is not the law. It is the grit and guts of a mother who refuses to surrender her son to fate and the tenacity of a brother—a blogger—who fuses culture and technology to explore and explode absence: the void in which Mehdi has vanished.” – from the book’s website

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow


After being interrogated for days by the Department of Homeland Security in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco, California, seventeen-year-old Marcus, released into what is now a police state, decides to use his expertise in computer hacking to set things right.

Brain Jack by Brian Falkner


Las Vegas is gone—destroyed in a terrorist attack. Black Hawk helicopters patrol the skies over New York City. And immersive online gaming is the most dangerous street drug around. In this dystopic near-future, technology has leapt forward once again, and neuro-headsets have replaced computer keyboards. Just slip on a headset, and it’s the Internet at the speed of thought. For teen hacker Sam Wilson, a headset is a must. But as he becomes familiar with the new technology, he has a terrifying realization. If anything on his computer is vulnerable to a hack, what happens when his mind is linked to the system? – from Google Books synopsis

– Tessa, CLP – East Liberty

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