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Libya shuts down Internet access as unrest intensifies

Libya has now started shutting down its Internet and social networking sites that could help revolutionaries organize, multiple news outlets reported late Friday.

Following the lead of dictatorships that are limiting online access after the overthrow of Egypt’s government last week, Libya appears to be targeting sites including Facebook, Twitter, and even major Arabic news network Al-Jazeera, which confirmed it was no longer accessible in the country.

After the success of organizing via the Internet in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt (pictured), it seems clear that long-time Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi is taking no chances when it comes to the power of online connections to rally an already-restless populace.

Reports the BBC:

Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s government in Libya has taken a series of measures, including blocking Internet sites and shutting off electricity to try to quell rising unrest. Emerging reports suggest a mounting death toll from days of clashes between security forces and protesters.

The AFP confirmed that report, adding:

Access to social networking site Facebook was cut in the Libyan capital on Friday and access to the Internet was intermittent amid deadly anti-regime protests, computer users reported. From early evening it was impossible to access the popular Facebook site, and connections to other sites were either very slow or not possible, they said.

Libyan ally and fellow Arabic state Bahrain also began restricting the ability to reach the Internet this week after weeks of civil unrest.

Research conducted by Massachusetts-based Arbor Networks showed that Internet backbone traffic dropped by as much as 20 percent beginning on Monday, although the country has only blocked access sporadically.

Gaddafi is now following through on a philosophy he outlined last week about sites like Facebook, describing them as “an imperialist plot” and creating special task forces to look into any citizens using the Internet to organize opposition.

Gaddafi has controlled Libya since 1969 after staging a bloodless coup d’état against then-king Idris.

Thus far, dozens of protesters have clashed with Libyan security forces, with a reported death toll of at least 40 people — much of which had been caught on videos widely distributed on YouTube, but then just as swiftly removed by pro-Gaddafi factions.

Unlike Egypt, however, the protesters in Libyan have been swift to create a potential shadow government should the existing regime tumble and had outlined their demands to both the local and the international press prior to the Internet shut-out.

“We want a constitutional committee to adopt a new constitution for the country, legislative and presidential elections,” Hadi Shalluf, opposition leader in exile and a judge at the International Criminal Court, told Euronews. “We want to try all of those who’ve committed crimes, to try all of those accused of corruption. We know, especially, that there is no trace of 1.5 trillion dollars of national revenue created since 1969. We want this money to go into the state’s coffers.”

Here’s a video of Tuesday’s major protest in Libyan city Benghazi:


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