Most of us have seen the shaky videos shot from cell phone cameras and discreetly taken snapshots uploaded via various anonymizing services of the unfolding situation in Myanmar.
According to various reports, citizen reporters have even started using the social networking site Facebook for slipping news into online greeting cards to communicate their messages to the outside world.
If anything, the news filtering out of the country over the last month represents a flawless demonstration of just how the Internet allows the circumvention of restrictions placed by oppressive regimes.
Unfortunately, things have ground to a standstill.
Since Friday, widespread reports say that public Internet cafes have been shut down and most of the country’s cell phone lines have been disconnected. Now, Internet access also appears to be cut, and the help desk of the main Internet service provider did not answer its telephones to explain why there was no access.
Now, to be clear, Myanmar is hardly a technological hub. Cell phones are expensive, and the Internet penetration rate is at less than 1%, according to the Wall Street Journal. Indeed, a 2005 report by the Open Net Initiative, run out of several universities, said that Myanmar’s State Peace and Development Council has implemented “one of the world’s most restrictive regimes of Internet control.”
But the relatively unique situation in Myanmar aside, the question raised is: Just how hard would it be to “shut down” the Internet where you live?