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Report

Digital dominion: new report exposes the depth of Syrian regime’s mass surveillance

Access Now and UIC John Marshall Law School International Human Rights Clinic have published a report that documents the regime’s manipulation and control of the internet, the systematic surveillance of an entire population, tech companies’ compliance, and the devastating consequences for human rights. It is also an open call to the international community: Syrian authorities must be held to account. 

This report details how the Syrian regime proactively monitors dissenters, either directly or through non-state actors, and how that digital monitoring facilitates the broader campaign of control and violence leading to arrests, torture, forced disappearances, and death of Syrian people. It alleges that the Syrian regime’s surveillance campaign against the Syrian people and human rights defenders has been facilitated by infrastructure created by foreign multinational companies

The report explores:

  • The methodical expansion of Syria’s mass surveillance system, and the resulting arrests, torture, forced disappearances, and deaths.
  • The ongoing strengthening of invasive digital infrastructure, including content filtering systems to combat political speech; shutting down internet access and services, blocking websites critical of the government, and blocking popular websites and apps, such as YouTube, Facebook, and Skype; Monitoring traffic and stockpiling data to identify and target individuals; and Employing state-sponsored hacking group, the Syrian Electronic Army
  • Big Tech’s role in implementing state-sponsored violations, including:
    • Blue Coat (now Symantec), Area SpA, and MTN selling technology and software directly to the regime, in full knowledge of its intended use;
    • Facebook regularly deleting accounts of critics, and those documenting human rights abuses; and
    • MTN Syria’s compliance of government orders to block text messages to undermine protest organizers.
  • The human rights violations, and their dangerous implications, faced by millions of Syrians everyday.