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[liberationtech] Online tools blocked in Syria. Its probably not what you think.

Jillian C. York jilliancyork at
Tue Aug 21 10:24:04 PDT 2012

+1, totally support this.

And if anyone wants the longer version, I wrote this awhile back but it
remains accurate:

On Mon, Aug 20, 2012 at 11:18 PM, John Scott-Railton <
john.scott.railton at> wrote:

> Hi All,
> You're likely aware of US export restrictions intended to limit the Assad
> Regime's access to monitoring and filtering gear.  But there is another
> side of this coin: unintended and negative effects on Syrians' access to
> personal communications and security technologies. This inadvertently
> compliments the regime's own filtering efforts.
>  A few hours ago, an online petition*  started circulating, requesting
> that the Departments of Commerce and Treasury review and  streamline export
> licensure, guidance and review to address the problem.  The petition is
> hosted by, and led by Dlshad Othman, a Syrian opposition IT
> expert.
> *Please consider signing, and spreading the petition link:*
> I've written a  quick summary.
> *TL;DR for Libtech:*
> -Some key software and online services, including security tools, aren't
> making their way to Syrians.
> - Even if the tools are exempted under the letter of the law
> -Syrian digital activists don't understand why this is happening, given
> official statements from the US that say these tools should be available.
> - Last week, the Washington Post laid out the problem: Washington Post
> Article<>
> -Sanctions are complicated, and the process of licensure is quite long.
>  It can be resource consuming, even for big players.
> -Penalties for violations are severe
> -Companies' risk-averse compliance regimes are partly responsible for why
> many tools currently legal under the letter of current law, or whose
> legality could be quickly determined, have not been made available
> to Syrians.
> -Companies will benefit from clearer signals and guidance from Departments
> of Commerce and Treasury
> -A new general license is needed: it should give clearer and more explicit
> exemptions on personal communications and security technologi balancing
> legitimate concerns over cryptography and financial transactions with the
> need to protect the safety of at-risk populations
> - For specific licenses, a more streamlined process also needs to be
> implemented, giving clearer formal and informal guidance to companies, and
> a faster case-by-case licensing mechanism for companies and NGOs
> * (full disclosure, I'm involved)
> Best,
> John Scott-Railton
> John Scott-Railton
> PGP key ID: 0x3e0ccb80778fe8d7
> Fingerprint: FDBE BE29 A157 9881 34C7  8FA6 3E0C CB80 778F E8D7
> --
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*+1-857-891-4244 |** | @jilliancyork *

"We must not be afraid of dreaming the seemingly impossible if we want the
seemingly impossible to become a reality" - *Vaclav Havel*
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