An email I sent to the readership of Groundviews today, following a bizarre disruption to site access over SLT ADSL in Sri Lanka on 20th June.
On 20th June, for a number of hours in Sri Lanka, Groundviews was completely inaccesible over Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) ADSL broadband connections. Since it began operations in 2006, this was the first time the site was completely inaccessible over an ISP in Sri Lanka.
Reader reports from across Sri Lanka confirmed the site could not be reached, as well as the fact that over ISPs like Dialog and Etisalat, the site continued to work fine. The founder and co-editor of Groundviews, in New York at the time, could also access the frontside and backend of the site without any problem or delay. Reader reports also indicated that our partner site Vikalpa and the website of Transparency International Sri Lanka were also inaccessible over SLT ADSL broadband connections at the same time Groundviews was blocked.
Worried Groundviews was the latest website in Sri Lanka to be subject to an arbitrary block, we immediately activated emergency protocols that included the activation of a mirror site on WordPress.com, alerting our readership through email, Twitter and Facebook of the site block and immediately switching our RSS feeds to a different network architecture that allowed the full content on the site, including comments, to be read even if the SLT ADSL block continued to be in place, and indeed, spread to other ISPs as well.
However, as suddenly and surprisingly as the block on Groundviews was imposed, it went away. Full site access was restored towards the end of the day, which we confirmed on our site and social network feeds. As we noted to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) who red-flagged our site block in a press release, it “could have been a dry run for future action, could have been someone who flipped a switch without being told to do so, could have been a signal to us to shut up.”
We received a vast number of emails, SMSs and calls supporting our work and our site. Thank you to everyone who responded so quickly and in solidarity. On the plus side, the temporary block provided us a good excuse to activate and test our emergency site access and content publication protocols, which were successful.
The site now operates as normal.