Did China Use its Internet Kill Switch?

Kate Hicks
Posted: Apr 14, 2012 3:23 PM

A mysterious internet outage in China is provoking speculation that its restrictive communist government is running tests of its "internet kill switch," which would shut down web access for "emergencies." It seems like a drastic conclusion to reach, but apparently, the country's biggest internet providers report no technical issues on their end. They simply can't explain the outage.

According to Tech in Asia, VPNs that had previously allowed Internet users to get around the Great Firewall were down, but that smaller VPN providers seemed to be unscathed. This could suggest a deliberate targeting of such services, but at the moment, we can only speculate.

Admittedly, it does seem as though such a ‘kill switch’ would be extreme and far-fetched. However, the absence of clearer explanations lends the theory some credibility. China’s Ministy of Industry and Information Technology has been silent over the blackout, and so have much of the state-run media.

China Daily, People’s Daily and Xinhua, some of China’s major news publications are continuing to cover the growing ‘rumours’ issue, but not the blackout.

It could be relatively insignificant, but as Wall Street Journal’s Josh Chin points out, “the episode did illustrate just how jumpy China watchers and China Internet users have become in recent days.”

As Erika reported earlier this week, China's regime has seen some mysterious, er, "personnel shifts" that have given its people reason to speculate about the country's future, using social media sites. Could this internet outage have any connection to the political developments? Or is it simply a coincidence -- albeit a very curiously timed one?