Morozov, the Internet and Syria’s regime

I started reading Evgeny Morozov’s book “The Net Delusion” (though my version has an ugly cat on the front cover) yesterday. The first chapter starts off with Iran ‘Twitter Revolution’ in 2009, where Morozov criticises this notion on the grounds that in fact in Iran

1. Ahmadinejad got elected, rendering all the positive news about the effectiveness of Twitter in the protests a lot less glorious as first thought,

2. the government has become extremely effective in using the Internet/technology as a tools to track protesters/the social movement down and control the online media.

Having said that, it appears that — although I am apprehensive of his book, for it seems like a great way to get famous by coming up with something this controversial, I should and will give it a fair chance to ‘convince’ me — he is right in point out a blind optimism of the usage of social media in Iran.

Furthermore, the below gives us a confirmation that well-organised and effective regimes know/are rapidly learning how to use technology for its own sake, against the opposition

In recent weeks, the self-styled Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) has launched hacking attacks on the BBC, the Associated Press (AP) and most recently the Guardian. Last week the group succeeded in hijacking AP’s main Twitter account, with 1.9 million followers. It falsely claimed that President Obama had been injured in an explosion. AP corrected the message, but not before $130bn had been briefly wiped off the value of stocks.

Online pro-revolution activists have been one of the defining features of the ongoing Arab Spring. In Syria, opposition activists have played a crucial role in the struggle against President Bashar al-Assad. Over the past two years they have uploaded numerous videos of anti-Assad demonstrations to YouTube, posted gruesome footage of victims killed by government forces, and helped shape political perceptions in the west, as EU leaders inch towards arming Syria’s moderate opposition.

But unlike Tunisia, Egypt and Libya – whose former regimes were caught badly off guard – Assad’s government has been fighting back. It has created an increasingly rambunctious group of counter-revolutionary hackers. These hackers have a twin function: to punish western news organisations seen as critical of Syria’s regime, and to spread Damascus’s alternative narrative.This says that the war in Syria isn’t a popular uprising against a brutal, despotic family-military dynasty but rather an attempt by Islamist terrorists to turn Syria into a crazy al-Qaida fiefdom.

The Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) sprang up in 2011 at the beginning of the anti-Assad revolution. According to defectors from inside its ranks, the group moved last year from Damascus to a secret base in Dubai. (Some pro-regime volunteers remain inside Syria, but they are at greater risk there of being unmasked and killed.) The Syrian government is widely believed to be behind the SEA’s activities. In a speech to Damascus university in 2011, Assad likened these anonymous online warriors to his frontline troops: “The army consists of the brothers of every Syrian citizen … Young people have an important role to play at this stage, because they have proven themselves to be an active power. There is the electronic army, which has been a real army in virtual reality.”

via The Syrian Electronic Army: Bashar al-Assad’s shadow warriors | Technology | The Guardian.

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