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[liberationtech] Watching Syria through Tenders Sites (with bonus American shell companies).

Collin Anderson collin at
Wed Nov 30 09:03:09 PST 2011

Libtech -

For the past month, I've been watching Syrian business tender sites,
looking for technology solicitations related to censorship and
surveillance. Instead, what I have come to appreciate as more interesting
is the prospect of such mechanisms being a source of data on the scarcity
of goods created by the now several rounds of sanctions that have been
imposed. After much thought, I don't anticipate finding a clean, large
dataset that can be modelled, graphed or manipulated. So being as my
interest as waned, I wrote up some notes for others to be able to pick up
the trail.

There are two additional aspects that may be interesting to researchers:

   1. The type, quantity and solicitor of the goods, ranging from small
   quantities of olive oil, to explosion proofing hospitals.
   2. The relationship between the site and its American hosting, payment
   vendors and shell corporations.

For someone like me, who is a firm advocate for removing IT restrictions on
private individuals in sanctioned countries, SyrianTenders presents a
terrible, grey area.

As Turkey follows the Arab League, Europe and the United States in
> sanctions against the Syrian economy, the intention is to stifle the
> ability of companies and government bureaucracy to carry out routine
> business by limiting available resources. The expectation of the West and
> its allies is that if business and political elites, not to mention the
> masses, begin to suffer, their willingness to support the Assad regime will
> ebb, opening opportunities for regime change. However, scarcity depends
> largely on the inability to find what is still available domestically, from
> countries not participating in the embargo or on the black market. For this
> reason, it is increasingly possible that open government and the Internet
> provides the possibility for regimes and businesses to buttress some
> aspects of sanctions.



*Collin David Anderson* | @cda | Washington, D.C.
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