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Investigations are under way after a think tank based at the University of Toronto reported that Syrian government websites are being hosted on servers based in Canada.
The report claims that 17 Syrian websites including those of the Ministries of Culture, Transport, Social Affairs and Labour, as well as Syrian television network Addounia TV, are being hosted by iWeb Technologies, a Montreal-based company, through several intermediary companies.
In reaction to the report, iWeb issued a statement saying, “Canada has enacted targeted sanctions against certain Syrian government entities and individuals. Canada has not enacted a broad embargo against doing business with Syria.”
Addounia TV is sanctioned by Canada and the European Union for inciting violence against Syrian citizens. They are part of a broad range of sanctions made against Syria by the Canadian Government in condemnation of a violent crackdown on the activities of freedom fighters in that country.
Ron Deibert, director of the university’s Citizen Lab said that its findings “peel back the layers of a complex, highly nuanced, and often seamy world of web hosting.” He added that a Syrian television network hosted in Canada is “at minimum in contradiction to Canada’s stated foreign policy.”
The Citizen Lab’s statement also claims that the Syrian government has been using the servers in an attempt to get around the sanctions.
In 2009 the University of Toronto group also uncovered a China-based online spy network, which stole Indian military secrets and hacked the Dalai Lama’s office and computers in a global espionage scheme.
Adding to these investigations, the group also disclosed evidence that Hezbollah, which Canada has labeled a terrorist organisation, is also hosted on Canadian and US-based servers to stream its television broadcasts.
This is not the first time that the Syrian websites have been found using Canadian servers. Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail reported that in 2008 iWeb had inadvertently hosted Hezbollah-affiliated sites and when it “learned of the websites’ affiliation, it cancelled its web hosting services.”