Belarus shuts down Internet amid protests.
The government of Belarus largely shut down the country's Internet on Sunday amid protests over the dubious landslide reelection of President Alexander Lukashenko, Vice reports. The government maintains that the Internet disruptions are being caused by DDoS attacks from foreign operators, but most observers are confident that the outages were ordered by Minsk itself. According to the Guardian, the shutdown was administered at the level of Beltelecom (Belarus's national telco) and the Belarusian National Traffic Exchange Centre. The Guardian quotes a source at a Belarusian mobile operator as saying, "We’re in shock from what is happening. It’s going to continue until approximately 14 August. We’ve simply been told that this is what’s happening."
Vice cites Alp Toker, director of NetBlocks, as saying the Belarusian government appears to be using deep packet inspection to block access to any Internet domains that contain one of more than 10,000 specified keywords. Toker says this technique would create the impression of a technical failure, comparing it to a randomized version of China's Great Firewall. Radio Free Europe | Radio Liberty notes that the Belarusian government spent $2.5 million on deep packet inspection technology in 2018, and the government may have been testing it when VPN outages were observed last month.
Some VPN services remained accessible during last week's outages, although many were blocked. The Telegram messaging app became the primary mode of communication and coordination for protesters and others in the country. Telegram founder Pavel Durov, a Russian now in exile, tweeted that "We enabled our anti-censorship tools in Belarus so that Telegram remained available for most users there. However, the connection is still very unstable as Internet is at times shut off completely in the country."
US Secretary of State Pompeo stated Monday that Belarus's election "was not free and fair," and that "[w]e strongly condemn ongoing violence against protesters and the detention of opposition supporters, as well as the use of internet shutdowns to hinder the ability of the Belarusian people to share information about the election and the demonstrations." The European Union said much the same, and Deutsche Welle reports that EU foreign ministers have agreed to impose new sanctions on "those responsible for the violence, arrests, and fraud in connection with the election."