Warning Shot in Libya: Kill-Switch Test

Posted on 18/02/2011 by


According to renesys.org, the Colonel has dropped the hammer: Libya is completely offline.


The Internet has been restored. Consider this a thought exercise, more new comments below.


Once again, we see a dictator going straight for the big red button marked ‘do not push’ and pushing it. To reiterate what I wrote about Egypt’s Internet being taken offline [here and here], this is madness. This is madness as in ‘getting kicked down the Pit of Death‘ madness: by kill-switching the Internet, Gaddafi has kill-switched any chance of Libya staying under his thumb. He, like Hosni Mubarak before him, has ensured that his dictatorship is over.

The Internet, simply put, is the lifeblood of the modern world. Virtually everything depends upon it; indeed, on could say everything depends upon the smooth functioning of the Internet. Corporations need the Internet for their sophisticated inventory management programmes; small businesses need it to communicate with their customers; governments need it, whether or not they are aware of it, to function internally.

Turning off the Internet means that all of the above won’t be happening, full stop. Corporations shut down because they cannot maintain their complex, just-in-time supply lines. People can’t keep in touch with their customers, or even simply friends and family. Governments lose all quick means of internally conveying information, and must resort to faxes and telephones.

Looking at the economic macro-view, the entire economy ceases to function on anything resembling the normal speed and scale. Stock markets drop in value, and investors both foreign and domestic start getting skittish about their money; suddenly Qatar seems a much better choice.

The really big implication of turning off the Internet, and its attendant shut-down of the economy, is that it creates – as if by magic! – a huge number of people with nothing to do and bills to pay. That sound like revolution material to me. The people most affected are the young, the restless, and the restive: kill-switching the Internet is the on-switch for revolt.

Expect the Libyan Revolution to be over much faster than Egypt’s. Also, I wouldn’t expect the Colonel to be permitted a comfortable retirement in a resort town. He had either flee the country, or expect some very unpleasant retribution. His pressing the Internet kill-switch was ironically ensuring that he would not remain in power long.

Good job, Gaddafi! You’ve just done gone dropped the stupid bomb.


According to the renesys.org article, the Internet was down in Libya for about 7 hours. That is probably not a hiccup, unless I’m missing something technical. In my mind, I think the Libyan government thinks it is being clever and giving protesters a warning shot. In essence, “be good or we’ll take away your Internets!”

Either way, this was still the stupid bomb. People will not like this manoeuvre one bit. If the Libyan government doesn’t say something along the lines of ‘terrible mistake, so sorry’, expect protesters to blow gaskets. If the idea was to take away the candy to get people to behave, that notion will backfire hard and fast.


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Posted in: Analysis