Syria's Online Battlefield →

An interesting piece in Le Monde, by way of Worldcrunch, on cyber warfare in Syria:

On the rebellion’s side, this cyber-dissidence is still led by amateurs, with the support of the Syrian National Council (SNC, the main opposition force). “They are mostly young intellectuals from the upper middle class, who are helped by a strong diaspora that can escape Internet censorship,” says Mathieu Guidère, a geopolitical scientist and specialist of the Arab world who teaches at the University of Toulouse in southwestern France.

Their main playground: social networks and sharing websites. Via Twitter, Facebook or YouTube, they get informed about the situation in different cities in the country – with varying accuracy. The major goal is to reach the international community and Western opinion.

“But the information isn’t that easy to transmit. Often the videos have to transit through a foreign location. The lockdown on the telecommunications system forces the Free Syrian Army to work in a fragmented, non-coordinated manner,” says Guidère. 

Bashar al-Assad’s regime, on the other hand, has professionalized. SyriaTel, the main communications company, and the country’s Internet service providers are the property of Rami al-Makhlouf, the president’s cousin. “The Syrian electronic army and military intelligence have taken things into their own hands, and they use collected data for repressive purposes. If an opponent posts a video from an IP address located in Syria, there’s a 99 percent chance that he will be located within the hour and receive a visit from the shabiha [regime militias] in the next three hours,” says Guidère.

Though the rebels’ internet resources are more disjointed and they lack access to professional resources of the regime, they are better able to get their voice heard on an international stage. Damascus relies primarily on State television, the official press agency, and Hezbollah or Iranian press. At the same time, internet winnings seem to be more symbolic than helpful on the ground. 

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