Facebook Unblocked in Syria, but Sees Little Change in Traffic

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The Syrian government recently announced they planned to lift a five-year-long block on Facebook, YouTube and Blogger. The move was welcomed by the State Department's Alec Ross as a "positive move." Indeed, traffic to YouTube appears to have markedly increased.

But over at Facebook, they aren't seeing major changes in usage patterns in the country.

"We have always seen some traffic from Syria, although we have not seen user growth that we typically in a country with this level of Internet penetration," Facebook's Andrew Noyes told us late yesterday. "We have not seen changes in traffic."

That could be because Syrians who wanted to use Facebook had already developed workarounds like bouncing off proxy servers in other countries.

It should also be noted that the Open Net Initiative had confirmed widespread website blocking, far beyond the big name Western sites:

The Web sites blocked in Syria span a range of categories, with the most substantial filtering being of sites that criticize government policies and actions or espouse oppositional political views. Repressive legislation and the imprisonment of journalists and bloggers for their activities online have led many Syrians to engage in self-censorship. Meanwhile, the government continues to promote the growth of the Internet throughout the country.

Many of these smaller sites undoubtedly remain blocked.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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