As the uprising in Syria, one of the last and most brutal of the Arab Spring movement, continues unabated, a US firm specialising in internet censorship equipment has confirmed that web censorship tools sold to Iraq have now been traced to the Syrian regime.
Any sale of such equipment to the oppressive Syrian regime is barred by US law.
According to the firm, Blue Coat Systems, systems used to filter the internet which it sold to the Iraqi Department of Communications are being used by the Syrians. Blue Coats was quick to point out that it had no idea how the systems had ended up in Syrian control.
“The evidence points to it being in Syria,” a Blue Coat official said. The official, who asked to remain nameless due to the sensitivity of the matter, also added that, “since we didn’t sell it there, we don’t know the particulars.”
According to the nameless official, at least 13 of the 14 web censoring “appliances” shipped to Iraq are being used in Syria.
The web censoring “appliances” comprised both hardware and software.
According to Blue Coat, that would be enough equipment to effectively curb internet traffic in Syria.
While paperwork reflected that the equipment had reached the Iraqi government via Dubai, analysis by Blue Coat of data logs and IP numbers from the Syrian web posted by self-styled “hacktivists” showed this was not the case.
Even though when done by democratic nations it is referred to as “filtering”, censorship of the internet is commonplace across the globe. In repressive regimes, however, it has been used as a means by which to ensure that people are unable to organise protests using social media.
This tactic, first put to effective use by the Iranian government in 2009, was copied by regimes across the Middle-East as the uprising which came to be known as the “Arab Spring” began.
The first nation liberated in the Arab Spring, Tunisia, recently held democratic elections. Syrians are still, however, engaged in weekly marches and demonstrations against the regime, generally held after traditional Friday prayers.
According to figures compiled by the United Nations, more than 3 000 people have been killed since mid-March when Syrians rose up against the government of Bashar al-Assad. The majority of those killed have been civilians.
With the Asaad regime having expelled and barred all foreign media, social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, and video-sharing sites, particularly YouTube, have proved invaluable in spreading the news and showing the world the bloody repression of these protests.