THE BLOG
02/13/2011 01:28 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Media and the Algeria Internet Rumors

Well, here we go again... the mainstream media yesterday jumped on rumors that Algeria had shut down the Internet, with seemingly no effort to check facts with people on the ground. This wouldn't be the first time that an unsubstantiated rumor of this sort was spread by so-called professionals; last week, a similar statement about the Syrian Internet was made, despite protest on Twitter from Syrian users, who were accessing the site just fine.

This time around, journalists didn't check Twitter either; if they had, they would have seen that Algerians were tweeting throughout the supposed blackout.

As of the evening, neither the Telegraph nor Mashable -- the two outlets primarily responsible for the rumor--had bothered to issue retractions, despite hard evidence. This morning, Mashable corrected their post to state that there was no countrywide blackout.

The Telegraph's report -- which Mashable and the Associated Press based their own reports on -- was simply obscene. Not only did the Telegraph claim the Algerian Internet had been shut down, but their subheader also stated that, "Internet providers were shut down and Facebook accounts deleted across Algeria." Really? Facebook accounts were deleted? The article doesn't mention anything to back that up, so I have no idea what the intent was. Did users delete their accounts out of fear? Were they phished by the government and then deleted? Did Facebook delete the accounts of users utilizing pseudonyms? Did they really mean that Facebook was blocked?

Turns out, none of the above. In fact, the Internet didn't go down countrywide at all, but that didn't stop Mashable from parroting the Telegraph report. Algerian commenters quickly jumped in, however, to point out that the story had not been verified and that the Telegraph was Mashable's only source.

Renesys, which was instrumental in reporting on the Egyptian Internet shutdown, explains the situation:

Algeria typically has about 135 routed network prefixes in the global routing table, and our data show that they are all still routed and relatively stable. Traceroutes inbound confirm that sites hosted in these prefixes are still alive, and spot checks of websites hosted in Algeria show that most are up and functioning normally. A few that we checked were unreachable, including the telecommunications regulatory authority (http://www.arpt.dz), the Prime Minister's office (http://www.cg.gov.dz), and other sites hosted at Djaweb (Telecom Algeria's hosting brand).

Now, there were indeed reports from some Algerians on Twitter that the Internet was intermittently unavailable, which I see no reason to doubt. @EyesOnAlgeria, precise location unknown, reported earlier today that his (her?) Internet was unreliable. It is also possible that the Algerian government slowed Internet traffic, similar to what happened in Iran in the summer of 2009.

Other Algerians say that Internet outages are relatively common and frequent in their country.

As for the Facebook "deletions," well...no evidence of any kind has surfaced as of yet.