Syrian authorities are busy proving Julian Assange right as they use what he called “the most appalling spying machine that has ever been invented” to keep tabs on their country’s digital dissidents.

The Assad regime allowed open access to Facebook and YouTube in February. Some human rights activists warned that Facebook would be turned against those of its 580,000 Syrian users who dared to use it to organize anti-government protests, many of whom have been captured and forced to reveal their passwords to security officials, returning only to find pro-government messages scrawled across their virtual walls. –ARK

The New York Times:

Security officials are moving on multiple fronts — demanding dissidents turn over their Facebook passwords and switching off the 3G mobile network at times, sharply limiting the ability of dissidents to upload videos of protests to YouTube, according to several activists in Syria. And supporters of President Bashar al-Assad, calling themselves the Syrian Electronic Army, are using the same tools to try to discredit dissidents.

… With foreign journalists barred from the country, dissidents have been working with exiles and using Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to draw global attention to the brutal military crackdown on protesters that has killed more than 700 people and has led to mass arrests in the last nine weeks. The Syrian Revolution 2011 Facebook page, which now has more than 180,000 members, has been a vital source of information for dissidents.

… A man in his 20s living in Syria said that the police demanded his Facebook password late last month after arresting him where he worked and taking his laptop. “I told him, at first, I didn’t have a Facebook account, but he told me, after he punched me in the face, that he knew I had one because they were watching my ‘bad comments’ on it,” he said. “I knew then that they were monitoring me.”

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