Facebook and YouTube unblocked for Syrians

Syrian government recently announced they would lift a five-year-long block on Facebook, YouTube and Blogger. The authorities issued no statements regarding the development, but Syria’s leading media and technology entrepeneur, Abdulsalam Haykal said that the request to lift the block “had reached internet service providers.”

The US State Department was quick to welcome Syria’s decision to lift the ban on Facebook and YouTube, but voiced fears that users would run risks without freedom of expression.

“Welcome positive move on Facebook & YouTube in #Syria but concerned that freedom puts users at risk absent freedom of expression&association,” Alec Ross, an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said on Twitter.

Al-Watan, a newspaper close to the government, quoted analysts as saying that the removal of firewalls blocking Facebook and YouTube demonstrated “the government’s confidence in its performance and that the state did not fear any threat coming from these two sites nor others.”

But Haykal said some websites remained blocked, including selected blogs, the Arabic version of Wikipedia, and a number of foreign and Arab media.

Last week a call on Facebook for a “day of rage” in Damascus — mirroring mass demonstrations in Egypt and Tunisia — amassed more than 12 000 supporters online, but in the end no protesters were seen on the streets. — AFP



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