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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

  • Kevin

    i bet you someone who left a comment on here from Syria is gonna get traced and get his/her ass whipped badly just for rejecting the idea of the ban…

  • katia

    They are stupid for banning it! we have loads of sex websites, europeans and arab ones, facebook is a fun way of keeping in touch with ur friends, it doesn’t have to be bad or rude…
    I WANT FACEBOOK BACK AND ALL MY FRIENDS TOO

  • offended

    the Portuguese translation of this article puts it under the humor category …

    Interesting…

  • Salsa why u care?

    easy easy on syria and why it has banned the site. i heard the gossipers sayings that facebook is a tool for FBI. u put ur name, ur pix , ur circle of friends, relativs, coworkers, those u went to college with or attended a course, events ure planning, interests through groups, all of this is previous data that will take some time to collect so why not put in nicely at the finger tips of FBI? i find the idea rediculious because im taking from a percpective different from FBI maybe. however, once i needed information about a person and i found his profile on facebook, not only i saw pix of all his family, but i got names with profiles of his friends. he was annoyed with the sum of information i got. think of the same happen to u. we think that FBI dont need no facebook to get informaiton about whoever they want when they want to. not true. in the USA everyone has a social number and informaiton about any person is a click away from them, but they dont have control over the whole world, facebook will make it easier! i still believe that those whom the FBI want will not have profiles in first place on facebook but their relatives will, their friends will and all of this is a fortune of information. facebook where i m is allowed but im considering closing my profile without a decision from the government of the country to dont curse syria and talk of it as if a moron has taken the decision.

  • Nick

    Just a though on “FaceBook” . I live in (and am from)Western Europe.I’ve used facebook for a short time(about a week was enough) -but will do so no more. I find it banal, cretinous, and pretty brain dead…. If you you wish to communicate with family and friends , there are better ways of doing it, by e-mail (encryped via Sea Monkey if you so wish). I’d certainly not trust ‘Facebook’ or ‘My Space’ (or others) to hold any information of mine in confidentiality….

  • […] crown the two months of rapid internet censorship, last week the Syrian government decided to block Facebook (The popular social network site) and Shabablek, a very popular local forum for young […]

  • Dear Amira,

    Thank you for this thoughtful and articulate post. I especially appreciated the translation of Arabic bloggers as I am glad to have read their words and would never have been able to otherwise.

    I have quoted you here:
    http://thenewjew.wordpress.com/2007/11/27/syria-says-no-to-facebook-fears-freedom-of-expression/

    Much respect,

    Maya Norton

  • Ramos

    let’s define facebook … : it’s a site with social aims , whose goal is 2 facilitate communication with others i.e friends and family and get 2 know new ones

    the main reason given 4 the block of facebook by officials in Syria was that it is American and that it serves their aims and goals …

    ok … maybe we should also consider blocking google … and maybe msn : these r american 2 … maybe we should just turn the INTERNET into an INTRANET as some1 in this thread mentioned b4 me …..

    and about the FBI using the facebook …. it can also b used by the Syrian intel :P I cant see a reason 2 stop them from makin use of it as well ….

    again talkin about American propaganda …. it’s said that a negative person sees opportunity as a risk , but the positive person sees risk as an opportunity … it’s possible that American and Europian media and other enterprises will b able 2 reach Syrian minds more easily …. but the authorities should have faith in its citizins and think of the opportunity of having free promotion 4 the country and its citizins … it’s widely known that our country SYRIA is lacking advertisment … and this is a FREE way 2 advertise 4 a country that’s viewed by others , unrightfully , as a country that hosts terrorists and that limits civil rghts and democracy …. banning Facebook will only CONFIRM these accusations …. cus as it’s already known 2 most that facebook is being used by universities and NGO’s and insitutes 2 communicate with members , it’s even used by American candidates 4 presidency !!

    conclusion : Facebook is a potential resource 4 BOTH syrian authorities and Syrian PPL …..
    and its baning is a mere show of some limited thinking and ignorance of the unknown …..

  • lara

    اصلا حجبولنا عقولنا من زمان ما بعرف ليش مدايقين نحن محجوبون من زمان

    Translation: “Actually, they have veiled our minds a long time ago and I don’t understand why they are upset. We have been veiled for ages.”

  • mesha

    can’t really believe what i’ve just read , it’s must b kind of joke cuz this ‘s really outrageous ,IT’S SILLY TO block aweb such as facebook with even no 1 good reason , except that it’s fun & can gather us with all our friends and familly out there in a lovable way .
    we must really be a shamed , cuz this ‘s no longer an internet it’s a mockery .

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