Facebook in Syria

The New York Times, “Syria Restores Access to Facebook and YouTube.” Published February 9, 2011


Three years ago, the Syrian government banned YouTube and Facebook within the country. Their goal was to prevent political activism that is so easily organized through such networks. The recent political uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia have proved the power of social networks, particularly of Facebook, to organize large groups to work together toward political change.

Last week, the Syrian government lifted these bans.  The Syrian government hopes that by lifting these bans, they will appear more democratic, thus lessening the chances of revolt similar to those in Egypt and Tunisia. The result could easily go either way. Lessening the internet restrictions may give Syrians a sense of increased freedom, but it might spark them to create political groups and rallies.

Syria has restrictions on public speech and assembly which may prove dangerous for Facebook users. Facebook policy requires users to register under their real name and personal information, and if the Syrian government decided that a Facebook user is a threat (or breaking speech and assembly laws) that user could be prosecuted.

Similar to what we saw in Afghan Star, the installment of Western social media in other societies may cause unforeseen controversy and even danger. In Syria, the government does not fully accept all the capabilities of Facebook, so users must be careful.

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