In Syria it appears that the security services have understood something about the power of social media. Syrian bloggers who use Twitter have found themselves the target of threatening messages and the #syria hashtag has been flooded with spam forcing Twitter to block the spam accounts.
The story broke when Anas Qteish, a Syrian expatriate “blogger, translator [and] tech enthusiast” based in the United States, noted at the GlobalVoices site that a number of Twitter spam accounts had popped up after the beginning of the Syrian protests. The accounts Qteish mentioned posted primarily in Arabic. These spam accounts, with names such as @thelovelysyria, @syriabeauty, @syleague, @karamahclub, @syhumor, @dnnnews and @mbking13 all regularly posted automated tweets full of nonsense unrelated to happenings in Syria with the #syria hashtag appended. One account, for example only posted old sports scores.
The role of technology in the Arab revolution has played a significant if not a pivotal role in changing the dynamics of political power. The influence of social media is well documented. However there are also companies such as Benetech who’ve allowed activists across the world to employ new tactics to expose political oppression. Their Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG) has developed tools that allow the collection of data, which can be stored on the cloud, safe from agencies that seek to prevent such information from going public. They have developed a software tool called Martus that
allows users to document incidents of abuse by creating bulletins, uploading them at the earliest opportunity, and storing them on redundant servers located around the world.
The software tool according to CEO of Benetech, Jim Fruchterman, is being used in the Middle East right now. Governments in the Middle East should be worried as the software has been successfully used in criminal prosecutions in Guatemala.
Beirut - Hope just got a boost online. From photos of youth in Saudi Arabia rebuilding after recent floods, to blog posts about solidarity in peaceful protests in Tahrir Square, to a video about women working together to overcome stereotypes, the new social networking site, 1001 Stories of Common Ground, offers a view of what is it like to be a creative, active Arab in a globalised world, far from the stereotypes haunting international mass media.
The name, 1001 Stories (1001cgstories.org), might remind website visitors and users of the classical tales of One Thousand and One Nights. The website is in fact a unique interactive platform which promotes real life experiences of positive change, social integration, dialogue, solidarity and much more, documented through articles, videos and photos, which individuals can post on the website.
A new Harvard University study details how American and Canadian companies provided Internet filtering and monitoring software to the Iranian government, Mubarak’s Egypt and other repressive states. It’s still going on.
Internet users in Egypt and Libya found themselves disconnected from the outside world thanks to “kill switches” that shut off network connections during civil unrest. The tech was made in the U.S.A., according to a new report.
Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society is alleging, via the OpenNet Initiative, that government censorship of the Internet in the Middle East and North Africa depends primarily on American and Canadian technology. McAfee, Netsweeper and Websense are all accused by the report of selling censorware to the governments of Iran, Yemen, Bahrain, Egypt, Tunisia and others.
There are few articles which really capture what has happened in the Arab world. This article by David D. Kirkpatrick and David E. Sanger of the New York Times is one of those articles we feel manages to evocatively convey some of the complex dynamics that make the Arab revolution so unique.
As protesters in Tahrir Square faced off against pro-government forces, they drew a lesson from their counterparts in Tunisia: “Advice to the youth of Egypt: Put vinegar or onion under your scarf for tear gas.”
The exchange on Facebook was part of a remarkable two-year collaboration that has given birth to a new force in the Arab world — a pan-Arab youth movement dedicated to spreading democracy in a region without it. Young Egyptian and Tunisian activists brainstormed on the use of technology to evade surveillance, commiserated about torture and traded practical tips on how to stand up to rubber bullets and organize barricades.
They fused their secular expertise in social networks with a discipline culled from religious movements and combined the energy of soccer fans with the sophistication of surgeons. Breaking free from older veterans of the Arab political opposition, they relied on tactics of nonviolent resistance channeled from an American scholar through a Serbian youth brigade — but also on marketing tactics borrowed from Silicon Valley.
The protests have continued today after Friday prayers in Damascus. At the Omayyed mosque worshippers starting chanting:
“There is no God but God,”… in crescendo after Friday prayers. It was unclear what had sparked the chants… Dozens of security forces, who had gathered outside the mosque during the prayers, pulled out batons as soon as the chants broke out and detained at least two people, dragging away one who resisted while beating him with batons and kicking him in the nose.
Since Wednesday a number of medical students have been arrested since the protests outside the Interior Ministry in Damascus together with at least 30 other protesters according to a page on Facebook covering the protests. Protests also took place in Aleppo, Al-Hassakah, Daraa, Deir ez-Zor, and Hama. The protests are becoming better organised:
Working from Washington, Syrian pro-democracy leader and expert, Ammar Abdulhamid is in contact with the dissident network in Syria where activists are “providing information from the field,” he said. According to Ammar, “The day of protests was organized by young activists from inside Syria who used Facebook pages and groups to exchange ideas. Ammar says that activists inside Syria have been communicating with counterparts in Egypt to learn from them. Demonstrations are being planned in front of Syrian embassies in major cities in the United States and Europe. The goal is to build momentum and network with Lebanese and Egyptians to ask for their support, said Ammar.
Revolution 2.0 is gathering momentum in Syria; some tweets that caught out attention: