By JENNIFER VALENTINO-DEVRIES, PAUL SONNE and NOUR MALASA U.S. company that makes Internet-blocking gear acknowledges that Syria has been using at least 13 of its devices to censor Web activity there—an admission that comes as the Syrian government cracks down on its citizens and silences their online activities. Blue Coat Systems Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif., says it shipped the Internet "filtering" devices to Dubai late last year, believing they were destined for a department of the Iraqi government. However, the devices—which can block websites or record when people visit them—made their way to Syria, a country subject to strict U.S. trade embargoes.
Discussions on the intersection of "The Arab Spring" and "Social Media" has been going on now for well over 9 months in the published press. One can only imagine that Google, Facebook and Twitter management have behind closed doors, been entertaining conversations from a myriad of .ORG and .GOV entities on this very subject. This week, the dialogue has taken on a more serious tone with comments from U.S. Secretary of State Clinton regarding Iran in the Washington Post:
By Thomas Erdbrink, Published: October 29
TEHRAN — An Iranian police unit that was formed this year to counter alleged Internet crimes is playing a key role in an escalating online conflict between the United States and the Islamic Republic. The “cyber police” force is part of a broad and largely successful government effort to block foreign Web sites and social networks deemed a threat to national security. Iranian officials say they must control which sites Iranians are able to visit, to prevent spying and protect the public from “immoral” material. The United States, they charge, is waging a “soft war” against Iran by reaching out to Iranians online and inciting them to overthrow their leaders. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday played into such accusations, saying U.S. officials had asked Twitter, the social networking site, to postpone online maintenance in 2009 so that it would be available for Iranian anti-government protesters organizing demonstrations against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed election victory. Iran’s state radio responded Thursday, citing Clinton’s comments as proof that Washington is using U.S. Internet companies to influence events inside Iran. Tensions between the two countries are high following allegations that an Iranian American citizen had plotted to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington at the behest of the Quds Force, an elite branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. Iran has denied the accusations, but the United States has called for tougher sanctions against Tehran.