Syria's lethal Facebook checkpoints


So what happens to everyone who doesn’t have Facebook or Twitter accounts?

I don’t use Facebook because I am boycotting it, but I couldn’t use Facebook if I wanted to because they require users to recognize people to reopen accounts. Fucking ableism.

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Hmmm, it will be interesting when that feature gains the equivalent of audio CATCHPAs.

This is a guy with a cheeky grin, red hair, an embarrassing tattoo, and his arm around your sister. Who is he?

Claiming you don’t have an account is indistinguishable from refusing to log into your account. So presumably if you say you don’t have an account, you’ll be killed or disappeared at the checkpoint too.

Is Syria the first country to make Facebook mandatory? I feel others are not far behind…


What is an anonymous tip from a reliable source?


I presume the source is known to Cory (who is vouching for his reliability), but wishes to remain anonymous.


I don’t think he’s trying to report this as news so much as use his visibility to get corroboration of something he was told.

Hi, I’m Principle Security Engineer at the Open Internet Tools Project. We provide support for developers of counter-surveillance and counter-censorship tools, and along the way spend a fair bit of time talking the the users of these tools in a variety of countries, including folks from Syria. We’ve absolutely had reports of similar things happening in a number of contexts, including (specifically) Egypt during the revolution. While I do not have a specific source to corroborate this story, it’s entirely within the bounds of what I’d expect in both any modern complex war zone with a heavy social media component, and within the norms of what I’d expect in Syria today – tragically in both cases.

Situations like this are why many folks in these regions will have a number of distinct social media accounts, one of the many reasons why real name and similar policies have a very real cost, and indicative of why operational security in a context like this is both critical and very difficult. Even if you have multiple accounts, making the mistake of leaving your phone logged into the wrong one (or of not keeping straight which account you intend to be expressing which opinions from) can be fatal in a situation like this, and the stress of managing things like this adds to an already terrible environment for psycho-social well-being.


This story sounds a bit doubtful. I travelled in Syria in 2009 and the internet was highly restricted. I could only access Facebook at Internet cafés that we’re connecting through Lebanon to avoid firewalls. Obviously things might have changed since then but I doubt that Assad decided to let everyone go nuts on Facebook. Of course it’s possible that anyone found with Facebook is illegally accessing the internet outside of government controls and therefore subject to more scrutiny.

Interesting: @Dymaxion claims to have had reports of such behavior, whereas @Danielle_Hewitt calls it doubtful. I’m inclined to believe it’s happening, because…well, because world, because human nature, because everything post-social media.
Some day we’ll have politicians that seize upon a new invention with the intent of doing good, rather than shoring up their power structure/position.

It’s not really an anonymous tip, then. It may be someone who wishes to remain anonymous, but these kinds of sources are not typically described as anonymous, even if the reporter keeps their identity confidential. Usually it’s “someone close to x,” “a source in x,” etc.

The ins and outs of Syrian filtering are well-documented by the Internet freedom community. It’s varied over time. In part, 2009 was five years ago, and even by 2012 Internet access had become more prevalent.

What a load of rubbish!

I returned from Syria last week. I drove around Damascus, Lattakia and Homs and passed through 1000 checkpoints. I note that:

  1. The roads are crowded at the best of times and the average time the guards spend with you at a checkpoint is only a couple of seconds.

  2. Internet access is poor in Syria and generally unavailable on the streets. These mobile checkpoints are set up at different spots and constantly moving to avoid being targeted. There is no way they would be housing sophisticated wi-fi equipment.

I can only add that I found the boys in green consistently friendly and courteous. I appreciate that if you did arouse their suspicions in some way they might be more difficult to deal with but keep in mind that they are only local boys who have been seconded into the army in a desire to protect their families and their homeland. The dreaded secret police are not staffing checkpoints!

Father Dave (

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