Syria pulls the plug on Facebook
LONDON - Syrian authorities have banned access to Facebook, citing anti-regime messages and the ability for people to directly contact Israelis as the reasons behind the secretive regime's ban.
Facebook members in Syria claim they have not been able to use the social networking site since Friday.
Some have claimed the Bashar Assad-led regime has blocked access to the website as part of a crackdown on political activism on the internet.
Dania al-Sharif, women's rights advocate, told Reuters: "Facebook helped further civil society in Syria and form civic groups outside government control. This is why it has been banned."
While there are many pro-Syrian groups on Facebook, there are many attacking it for the problems in Lebanon. These include groups: "Save the Lebanese detainees in Syria," "No Syria, no Bashar," and "Now that Syria is out of Lebanon, let's keep them out!".
However, no Syrians are listed by name as belonging to these groups.
The Jerusalem Post reported that Syrian officials had cited the site's capability to connect Israelis and Syrians directly as the main reason for the shutdown.
At the time of writing, there were 28,585 members on Facebook's Syrian network, around 1.9% of the 1,500,000 internet users operating in Syria.
The Syrian government has not yet commented, but according to reports the government has intensified a campaign against bloggers, virtual opinion forums and independent media sites in recent months. One report said that Microsoft's Hotmail is regularly blocked.
Popular middle-eastern news website, ArabianBusiness.com, said the block was because of a spam email campaign by anti-Syrian activists.
It reports that two days before the block took place, a spam campaign spread across the Syrian Facebook network, featuring avatars resembling Israeli flags and ridiculing Syrians.
Facebook declined to comment.
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