The Internet went silent in Providence, and then screams filled the streets, homes, and schools.
At 10am on June 1, major internet and social media providers suspended service in retaliation for a lawsuit filed by the City of Providence. Within minutes, users with IP addresses in the Creative Capitol were unable to access Google, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, and Snapchat.
“The kids went insane,” said highschool teacher Ima Freud. “One moment they were happily tapping away at their phones, and the next they went feral.”
In every city school, bands of youth ran through the halls. Some seemed unable to function, walking into walls again and again. Several students were pulled back from jumping out windows.
“The Chromebooks all stopped working too,” said Nathan Bishop Middle School librarian Reed Alibro. “On the plus side, all the books on the shelves are fully functional. All you have to do is open the covers and turn the pages.”
The city’s lawsuit was meant to force social media companies to be responsible for the effect they have on young people.
“Everybody wants us to teach kids,” said Providence School onspiration officer Dana Askme Anyting. “They want kids to learn to read and write and think. They want kids to develop moral compasses and become educated citizens.
“But when a child spends three to seven hours a day plugged into social media, it’s like flushing their brains down the toilet – and then the handle gets stuck and the water keeps running and running.”
Even adults were affected by the outage. Office workers and businesses found themselves unable to use their Google Office Suites, send instant messages, or even perform basic Google searches.
“Someone said I should use Bing,” said Gormley Brusk, an information services officer at Nortek. “Bing? What the hell is a Bing?”
- Instead of GPS map interfaces, drivers for ride sharing services found themselves squinting at what appeared to be a low-resolution image of a child’s crayon drawing of Downtown Providence.
- Local media also found itself gridlocked. Reporters at The Public’s Radio, The Providence Journal, and GoLocalProv were forced to pick up their phones and call people, or interview them in person.
“Do you know how much time it takes to look up a phone number?” said cub reporter Sorsus Sed. “One old guy in the newsroom said he used to access this thing called The Yellow Pages by letting his fingers do the walking. Which sounds racist and kind of creepy.”
Representatives of Meta, Alphabet and Snap issued a joint statement saying, “The Internet and our Services are not a right. In exchange for your eyeballs, clicks, and deeply personal information, we don’t charge you a penny. If the parents and citizens of Providence are unable to regulate themselves, then we will be forced to do it for them. And may God have Mercy on their Souls.”
Representatives at Twitter, which wasn’t actually named in the lawsuit but suspended service anyway, said, “Elon. Elon. Elon! Eeeeeeeelllllon.”
Within hours of the blackout, a flurry of residents who had moved to Providence from New York City during the pandemic put their homes on the market and hopped an Acela back to Manhattan.
“It’s nice being able to afford a yard,” said Woody Pekar, a filmmaker notorious for past peccadillos with pubescent schoolgirls. “Sure, the food is good, but without communication, I’ll go broke. And if I can’t search for porn, I’ll go crazy.”
By the end of the day, Downtown was empty and Providence’s real estate market had crashed. Residential and commercial property values were in freefall, and the property tax re-evaluation process was suspended like Wall Street on Black Friday.
“Well, this was somewhat unexpected,” said Providence mayor Brett Smiley. “We figured they’d just cough up half a billion dollars so we could plug the pension gap. Clearly, we’ll have to fix this. And everything else. Somehow.”
Then he blinked, like a deer in headlights.
The sound of that blink echoed in the mayor’s office, but because of the social media blackout, no one else noticed.