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Syrian activists are being muzzled on Facebook

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syria flag (flickr)
syria flag (flickr)

Social media has played a critical role in Syria, where three years of violent civil war and a government ban on foreign journalists have rendered objective reporting scarce. Facebook has proven to be particularly popular among the non-violent activists who first launched protests against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011, but as Michael Pizzi writes in a recent piece for the Atlantic, many of their pages are now being shuttered. Some pages were shut down for posting violent images from the bloody conflict or alleged calls to violence — in violation of Facebook policy — though some blame the Syrian Electronic Army for the shutdown, accusing the pro-Assad group of flooding the social network's reporting system with complaints, even about non-graphic posts.

Some fear that the policy is making it more difficult for activists to distribute information about what's happening in Syria, putting Facebook in an uncomfortable situation. "You have, for the first time, a conflict entirely documented over social media," said Joshua Gillmore, analyst at the Canadian NGO SecDev. "Facebook is basically policing a large country and trying to do so without access to what’s really happening."