Several parts of Algeria have been cut off from the internet on Friday 1 March 2019, limiting communications and media coverage of the second wave of protests against president Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term.
Confirmed: Evidence of Internet outages in #Algeria from 1:00 PM UTC during new wave of protests against president's re-election bid including #TiziOuzou and #Bejaia; incident ongoing #KeepItOn https://t.co/av2prsWEmJ pic.twitter.com/9XFqOSwgT6
— NetBlocks.org (@netblocks) March 1, 2019
The NetBlocks internet observatory has collected evidence of outages, with some ongoing since 25th February (Bordj Menaiel – east of Algiers), others beginning from 1:00 PM UTC Friday (including parts of the capital and Tizi Ouzou) at the outbreak of the new protests. The disruptions are ongoing at the time of writing and are likely to significantly impact participants’ ability to share content from the demonstrations.
The disruptions are consistent with technical means used to limit the flow of information in order to quell protests and media coverage of the opposition. Some networks remain available, though in cases with slowed or throttled bandwidth, permitting an amount of information to leave protest areas.
On Friday 22 February 2019, NetBlocks identified several regional internet disruptions across Algeria, when the public went out to the streets during the first wave of protests, with further disruptions throughout the weekend.
News sources report that state media have been compelled not to cover the protests. The internet disruptions are understood to be part of a wider attempt to curtail public dissent since the protests started in traditional, broadcast and online media.
Evidence of earlier social network restrictions
The two disruption incidents follow an earlier round of more limited platform restrictions appearing to target social media up until Thursday 21 February 2019 which internet users reported being able to circumvent using VPN (Virtual Private Network) software. Those reports are corroborated by evidence collected using NetBlocks web probe scans at 10:00 PM UTC on the 21st indicating the poor reachability of a broad set of online platforms with state-owned network operator Algérie Télécom (ALGTEL, AS36947):
Since Friday #Algeria's internet has also been disrupted at opposition flashpoints outside #Algiers; pictured: temporospatial mapping of IP connectivity in #Laghouat during this weekend protests; follow us for live updates #KeepItOn ⬇️https://t.co/qZdFr2621P pic.twitter.com/tOSZDAUyIU
— NetBlocks.org (@netblocks) March 1, 2019
The new findings corroborate many reports of ongoing disruptions:
Qu’on coupe internet, qu’on interdise aux chaînes télés de transmettre les manifs en direct, qu’on déploie un dispositif digne de l’ère soviétique. Les #Algerie-n ont décidé d’en découdre avec ce régime #1mars #5ememandat #حراك_1_مارس #5mandat pic.twitter.com/r7vqFJgXD5
— Ait Mouhoub Zouheir (@AitMouhoubZouhe) March 1, 2019
— Olivier Guitta (@OlivierGuitta) March 1, 2019
NetBlocks diffscans, which map the entire IP address space of a country, provide evidence of the scope and timing of the ongoing disruptions at internet-scale. NetBlocks web probe scans, conducted with the assistance of local volunteers and The Guardian‘s regional desk, provide an additional view of the disruptions and network performance from local vantage points.
Internet performance and service reachability are determined via NetBlocks web probe privacy-preserving analytics. Each measurement consists of latency round trip time, outage type and autonomous system number aggregated in real-time to assess service availability and latency in a given country. Network providers and locations enumerated as vantage point pairs. The root cause of a service outage may be additionally corroborated by means of traffic analysis and manual testing as detailed in the report.
NetBlocks diffscans, which map the IP address space of a country in real time, show internet connectivity levels and corresponding outages. Purposeful internet outages generally have a distinct network pattern used by NetBlocks to determine and attribute the root cause of an outage, a process known as attribution which follows detection and classification stages.
NetBlocks is a civil society group working at the intersection of digital rights, cyber-security and internet governance. Independent and non-partisan, NetBlocks strives for an open and inclusive digital future for all.