[JURIST] Syrian Internet users reported on Tuesday that social media sites Facebook [website; JURIST news archive] and YouTube [website; JURIST news archive] are accessible without proxy servers or VPNs. Syria appears to be lifting the ban imposed in 2007 as a concession to avoid popular upheaval [DP report] in Syria. Because both Facebook and YouTube are routinely accessed by Syrians through international proxy servers, the concession may have limited impact [AP report]. The move follows a recent interview in which President Bashar Al-Assad indicated he would push for political reforms including municipal elections and a new media law [CP report]. Other websites, such as Amazon and Wikipedia, remain blocked for the time being.
Several countries have banned and unbanned popular media sites in recent years. In November, Turkish authorities lifted a nearly three-year ban [JURIST report] on YouTube after disputed videos that allegedly insulted Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk [Turkish News profile], were removed from the site’s content. In July, a Russian court made public a ruling banning access to five websites [JURIST report], including YouTube, for extremist elements. In June, a Pakistani court reimposed a ban on YouTube [JURIST report] after content deemed offensive to Muslims resurfaced on the website when a previous ban was lifted last month. In May, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority [official website] ordered Internet service providers to block Facebook [JURIST report] in response to a competition created by a group of the website’s members entitled “Draw Muhammad Day.”