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Internet Censorship Circumvention Tools: Escaping the Control of the Syrian Regime

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Al-Saqaf, Walid

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Abstract Studies have shown that authoritarian regimes tend to censor the media to limit potential threats to the status quo. While such censorship practices were traditionally aimed at broadcast and print media, the emergence of the Internet and social media in particular, prompted some authoritarian regimes, such as the Assad regime in Syria, to try and exert a similar level of censorship on the Internet as well. During the Arab Spring, the Syrian regime blocked hundreds of websites that provided social networking, news, and other services. Taking Syria as a case study, this paper examines whether Internet censorship succeeded in preventing Internet users from reaching censored online content during 2010−2012. By analyzing the use of Alkasir, a censorship circumvention tool created by the author, the paper provides empirical evidence demonstrating that users were in fact able to bypass censorship and access blocked websites. The findings demonstrate that censorship circumvention tools constituted a threat to the information control systems of authoritarian regimes, highlighting the potential of such tools to promote online freedom of expression in countries where Internet censorship is prevalent. (author's abstract)
Keywords Syria; authoritarian system; media policy; information policy; information capture; freedom of information; political movement; protest; online media; online service; website; social media; censorship; software; Internet
Classification Peace and Conflict Research, International Conflicts, Security Policy; Media Politics, Information Politics, Media Law; Interactive, electronic Media
Free Keywords Alkasir; Arab Spring
Document language English
Publication Year 2016
Page/Pages p. 39-50
Journal Media and Communication, 4 (2016) 1
Issue topic Peacebuilding in the Age of New Media
ISSN 2183-2439
Status Published Version; peer reviewed
Licence Creative Commons - Attribution