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Syria: Facebook Banned

Syria's netizens have been given another slap on the face with the banning of social networking site Facebook. With Blogger already blocked, the country's bloggers are fuming and have a lot to say about the latest development.

From Damascus, Golaniya sets the mood:

“Facebook is blocked in Syria, would I sound naïve if I said I didn’t see it coming? Why should I? How are the Syrians facebooking? Launching opposition campaigns? What's Facebook in Syria anyway? Active civil society? Syrian groups calling to overthrow the Syria regime? What's so dangerous about Syrian facebookers that they shouldn't be using it anymore? Or perhaps because the site is American so it should be blocked? Or maybe the Syrian officials have no idea what's Facebook except that it's an American and it's getting popular in Syria? All the above?

My theory? I think the Syrian officials don’t have a thorough idea how Syrians are facebooking, I think they did not block Facebook–the-site, but the unfamiliar reaction to this site, the unknown consequences of this reaction that might be very much, uncontrolled!” she rants.

Golaniya further explains the backlash the ban created – with more Syrian groups popping up on Facebook as a direct result of the censorship and how netizens are finding a voice despite the repression.

“Who lives in Syria knows that it's the country of “nothing's going on” except to hang out in old Damascus’ cafes, but recently there has been a cultural awakening; people are starting to organize their interests in concerts, galleries, conferences, plays, screenings…etc. and Facebook is facilitating the process which is very hard to do in an inactive militarily controlled society. There are no cultural institutions in Syria, no private independent NGOs, no civic institutions, who represent the populations except the government? Syrian Facebookers are trying now to represent themselves. Those who cannot be activists in a “real” Syria can be one in a virtual Syria,” she writes.

Her final scream for opening up the world wide web is loud and clear:

“We want Syria uncensored!” she wails.

Writing in Arabic, Alloush blog urges the authorities to reconsider the ban. He writes:

فيس بوك في سوريا، ليس مشهور أبداً، بل إن نسبة انتشاره ضئيلة جداً، حتى أن أكثر العارفين بالانترنت في سوريا لم يفهموا ما هو هذا الموقع، إلا أن تناول الأخبار لشهرة الموقع، جعلت نسبة نموه في سوريا ترتفع إلى حد كبير، وسرعان ما أصبح من الطبيعي أن تشاهد كم هائل من السوريين ينشئون المجموعات التي تدعم سوريا، وتروج لها، بالاضافة إلى محاولة الطلب لانشاء شبكات فرعية لشبكة سوريا على فيس بوك، السودان يمتلك شبكات فرعية أكثر من سوريا.
“Facebook in Syria isn't that famous. Its distribution is very limited to the extent that many of those familiar with the Internet don't understand what the site is about. However, after news spread about its fame, it started growing in popularity in Syria and it then became natural to see large numbers of Syrians starting groups which support Syria and promote it, in addition to attempts to set up smaller networks for the Syria network on Facebook. Sudan has more smaller networks than Syria.
حسناً يبدو أن لدينا هنا أضخم موقع مدونات تم حجبه، أضخم موقع فيديو تم حجبه، والآن أضخم موقع اجتماعي تم حجبه وكمية كبيرة من المواقع تم حجبها، الشخص عندما يحلل الموضوع ويبحث عن اسباب الحجب قد يستنتج استنتاجات لا منطقية أو مضحكة، فمثلاً صديقي اليوم قال لي، يبدو أنه القائم على الحجب أخطأ بالقائمة، فبدل رفع الحجب، قام بالحج، وقريباً ربما سيحجب غوغل، وبذلك ستكون الانترنت في سوريا، انترانت (شبكة داخلية فقط) يمكنك تصفح موقع شركات البوظة والعلكة، فهي ممتعة حقاً.

الحجب عن هذه المواقع الغنية بالمعلومات تسبب الضرر للشعب السوري، فاولاً فهي ضربة للترويج المجاني لسوريا، وثانياً، هي حرمان للشعب السوري من خدمات متاحة للعالم أجمع، أتمنى من القائمين عن الحجب أن يعيدوا التفكير ولو قليلاً في جدوى سياسة الحجب.

It seems that we have the largest number of blogs that are blocked, and now the largest social gathering is being censored as well as a huge number of sites. When a person starts analysing the reasons for the bans, he will end up with illogical and funny conclusions. For instance, my friend today informed me that the person who blocked the site may have done a mistake and instead of lifting the ban had imposed it. Soon, Google may be banned and with that the Internet in Syria will be an internal system only, which will enable you to surf through the websites of the companies which make ice cream and chewing gum. That would really be interesting. Blocking access to such sites which are rich in information causes damage to Syrians. First of all, they are a slap against the free promotion of Syria and secondly, they deny Syrians access to services which are available for people around the world. I hope those responsible for this policy would reconsider their censorship policies.

Another Syrian blogger Redman has come up with a better solution to thwart censorship. He writes:

لا أعرف هل ينتهي الكلام عند هذا الحد أم ما زال لهذا الكلام فائدة ، شركات الإنترنت كل يوم تتحفنا بعروض جديدة للإنترنت و سعر الإنترنت اصبح ارخص من سعر البطاطا ( كيلو البطاطا بـ 45 ليرة ) ،(…) لكن لدي اقتراح جميل لماذا لا نحجب الإنترنت و نطلب من أصحاب المواقع تقديم طلبات للإدراج في قائمة السماح :) ، و المشكلة أننا في سوريا لا نعرف من يقوم بحجب المواقع فالسيد وزير الإتصالات نفى خلال المحكمة الأسبوع الماضي علاقة وزارة الإتصالات بالحجب و انه لم يصدر أي قرار حجب .
I don't know if the discussion will end with this or whether anything we say would be of any benefit. Internet companies come up with new offers everyday and the cost of Internet access is cheaper than the price of potatoes (a kilos of potatoes costs 45 Liras) … but I have a suggestion: why don't we ban the Internet and ask the site owners to apply (with officials) to be allowed to have sites. The problem in Syria is that we don't know who orders the blocking of sites. The Minister of Transportation denied in a trial last week that his ministry was involved in the bans and said that he has not ordered any closures of sites.

Mohammed also uses humour to express his infuriation with the ban in this post. He notes:

يعني والله خجلان من وين بدي بلش، بس أكيد أكيد حجب فيس بوك في سوريا ما حدا من مستخدمي الإنترنت في سوريا استغربوا يعني شي متوقع حتى أنا استغربت ليش لهلأ ما حجبوه، يعني موقع ابيبدأ بي دبليو و ابينتهي بدوت كوم و ما يحجب في سوريا فعلا شي غريب بس الحمد لله إنو حجبوه حتى ما انتم مستغربين !
By Allah, I am embarrassed and don't know where to start but I am certain that none of the Internet users in Syria were surprised when Facebook was blocked. I was surprised that it wasn't. Just imagine having a site which starts with w and ends with .com and not having it banned in Syria! I am thankful to God that it has been banned, so that we don't continue to live surprised.

He also has a suggestion for netizens, who are developing websites. He says:

وانا عندي اقتراح لأصحاب المواقع في سوريا إنهم لما بدهم يعملوا موقع ما يحطوا فيو شي لأن هيك هيك حينحجب فبلا ما يعزبوا حالهم ، تعب على الفاضي.
بعدين بصراحة يا شباب و ايدي على راسكم شو عاد الو طعمة الإنترنت عنا؟ مواقع و محجوبة و سرعة بتجيب السكتة القلبية فلشو محتاجين الإنترنت؟ من شان الإيميلات و البريد؟ اي محلولة منرجع منستخدم الحمام الزاجل على الأقل مضمون و أسرع من الإنترنت عنا !
I also have a suggestion to site developers in Syria. They should not populate their sites with anything because either way, it will be blocked and they would just be exhausting themselves for nothing. And then seriously guys, what does the Internet mean for us? Sites are blocked and the net is so slow it brings a heart attack. Why do you need the Internet? For emails? I have a solution for you. We can go back to using carrier pigeons. At the least, they are more guaranteed and faster than the Internet we have.

47 comments

  • Playboy

    people people .. relax ..
    and you, Ms/Mrs. who ever wrote this article . Do you really think there is no reason for them to block it ??
    Ok, can anybody in here tell me, how familier are the syrians with internet?? more than half of the users of the internet in syria know only 2 things, checking their emails, and chatting on MSN .. that’s all ..

    They have no idea about the possibilities of hacking, getting through and gatherin information that any pro hacker can do, Syria has blocked facebook because facebook is a free flow of information available for every one, there is a network called syria now, it contains lots of actors and celebs now .. the main reason syria blocked it .. is coz of fears that israeli sides might try to do something through this network and this website ..
    think it through !! do u really think they have no idea what facebook is ?? let me tell u this .. they know what it is .. they know what we use it for .. they even knew about this article u posted the moment it was posted ..
    so calm down ppl .. and think positive .. this is for your own good .. i mean how were u living witout facebook before ?

  • […] Not-Quite-Global-Networking – Turns out Syria has banned Facebook. The mind boggles. […]

  • Sabrina

    Wow, as an expat I’m appalled!!I’m using Facebook to reach out to my family, by showing pictures of my life and friends. This country has such a great future. But by blocking these kind of sites, you are supressing the young Syrian generation only bringing on anger within. Wake up and smell the coffee!(and there is a lot of coffee shops these days…) Don’t despair lovely Syrian generation of the free, you will figure a way out. You always do, and that will forever be a lasting impression on many of us Expats here.

  • This is uncalled for – why the governments of countries are blocking out websites that have global significance is insane.

    I only hope that this does not lead to more serious events in the future, and I am sorry for those who live in these countries and used those sites before they were censored.

  • damy

    well this is preety new to me i have heard of things like this going on before but never experienced it b4 am preety new in syria but this preety changes my preception of syria as a peace loving country that human views are respected this preety much proves me wrong

  • What ever

    I don’t know what this fuss is all about,
    WE SYRIANS DON’T NEED FACEBOOK.
    -we have mobile phone we can check out our friends by,
    -we can listen to Sawt AlShab so we don’t need “ILike”application,
    -we can buy an aquarium from souq alAsafir so we don’t need the aquarium application,
    -we have the wall of our building ,we can write on,next to”Don’t piss in here you son of a bitch”.
    though we don’t have “Wall to Wall” coz walls talk!!!
    -we can paste our photos in our family album so we don’t need “My photos” application.
    SEE We DONT NEED FACE BOOK,AND IF YOU INSIST<YOU CAN PUT a REQUEST AT UR aunt’s HOUSE,STICK TO IT 10 SP TABE3 from ABOU AHMAD WHO SELL FALAFEL DOWNstairs

  • Great post, Amira.

    The banning of Facebook frankly puzzles me. It’s not a particularly subversive project to my knowledge. But then the comment by Redman was revealing: that nobody really even knows who ordered it (or at least nobody wants to admit it publicly). Strange.

  • […] Syrian bloggers react to Facebook ban (Global Voices Online) […]

  • Ali

    I feel sorry for you guys, you should keep up the fight!!

  • Namz

    The removal of Facebook in my opinion isnt going to stop all the negative comments or anti-groups made by Syrians themselves nor others about whatever they talk about. The net may be a controllable thing but the government can never control the people, their minds or their actions. There are lots of ‘proxy websites’ where you can sneak into FB anonymously (they don’t really work that well really or maybe its my connection)

    Removing FB, YouTube and the other world famous websites, only encourages Syrians to hate Syria for its ignorance and childishness and want to move to a more open-minded environment where free speech is welcomed.
    At least that’s how I feel right now because for God’s sake, it’s just a website.

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