Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Report: Syrian Government Bans The iPhone

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Friday, December 2 2011

In the latest confirmation that video, and especially mobile video, has become "weaponized," the Syrian government has banned the iPhone, according to Haaretz.com:

"Syrian authorities have banned the use of the iPhone, further tightening curbs on activists using the device to expose government violence against pro-democracy protesters, the Lebanese website Al Nashara reported Friday.

Syrian activists based in Beirut provided dpa with a copy of a ban they said was issued by the Customs Department of the Syrian Finance Ministry."

As a recent PBS documentary "Syria Undercover" documented, mobile media is one of the primary tools that anti-government activists there have used to organize, and to record the atrocities committed by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Indeed, it was a YouTube video of the mutilated body of 13-year-old Hamza al-Khatib that fueled anti-government protests earlier this year.

It's unclear why the ban is based on a brand. One presumes that the ban extends to any kind of smartphone with a camera.

Syria's ban of the iPhone adds to the current debate underway in the United States over the use of surveillance technologies, and the control that states should exert over their proliferation around the world.

Blue Coat Systems of Sunnyvale, ca. recently acknowledged that its technology is being used by the Syrian government to block access to information on the internet over there. The company has said that it thought the equipment was going to be used in Iraq.

Rep. Chris Smith is re-introducing legislation that would ban U.S. companies from exporting internet filtering and surveillance equipment to regimes deemed to be repressive by the U.S. government.

Perhaps there should be some sort of provision stuck in there to encourage the smuggling in of cameras and smartphones to repressive regimes instead.

Update: Ethan Zuckerman , who researches and studies the technologies of free expression and censorship at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, tells techPresident that both Burma/Myanmar, and North Korea, have at various points banned smartphones.

Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.

GO

wednesday >

Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.

GO

The Rise and Fall of Iran's “Blogestan”

The robust community of Iranian bloggers—sometimes nicknamed “Blogestan”—has shrunk since its heyday between 2002 – 2010. “Whither Blogestan,” a recent report from the University of Pennsylvania's Iran Media Program sought to find out how and why. The researchers performed a web crawling analysis of Blogestan, survey 165 Persian blog users, and conducted 20 interviews with influential bloggers in the Persian community. They found multiple causes of the decline in blogging, including increased social media use and interference from authorities.

GO

tuesday >

Weekly Readings: What the Govt Wants to Know

A roundup of interesting reads and stories from around the web. GO

Russia to Treat Bloggers Like Mass Media Because "the F*cking Journalists Won't Stop Writing"

The worldwide debate over who is and who isn't a journalist has raged since digital media made it much easier for citizen journalists and other “amateurs” to compete with the big guys. In the United States, journalists are entitled to certain protections under the law, such as the right to confidential sources. As such, many argue that blogging should qualify as journalism because independent writers deserve the same legal protections as corporate employees. In Russia, however, earning a place equal to mass media means additional regulations and obligations, which some say will lead to the repression of free speech.

GO

Politics for People: Demanding Transparent and Ethical Lobbying in the EU

Today the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) launched a campaign called Politics for People that asks candidates for the European Parliament to pledge to stand up to secretive industry lobbyists and to advocate for transparency. The Politics for People website connects voters with information about their MEP candidates and encourages them to reach out on Facebook, Twitter or by email to ask them to sign the pledge.

GO

monday >

Security Agencies Given Full Access to Telecom Data Even Though "All Lebanese Can Not Be Suspects"

In late March, Lebanese government ministers granted security agencies unrestricted access to telecommunications data in spite of some ministers objections that it violates privacy rights. Global Voices reports that the policy violates Lebanon's existing surveillance and privacy law, Law 140, but has gotten little coverage from the country's mainstream media.

GO

More