Facebook Unblocked in Syria, but Sees Little Change in Traffic

By Alexis C. Madrigal

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.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/02/facebook-unblocked-in-syria-but-sees-little-change-in-traffic/71014/