Quoted: on rebel engineering to fight Syrian government

“We replaced the flag of the revolution with pornography… like pictures, you know, to keep the investigator busy.”

Ahmad Heidar, also known as Harvester, a 28-year-old software engineer in Syria who hacks into and “cleans up” anti-government activists’ profiles on Facebook and elsewhere to remove things that might incriminate them. His work, he told NPR, has helped get activists out of prison. Heidar also said he was offered a job with President Bashar Assad’s regime’s electronic warfare unit — which among other things tracks activists via their social networking presences — and turned it down, but not before seeing an underground bunker equipped with American technology that’s not supposed to be sold in Syria. Speaking of that, Reporters Without Borders this week named five companies it calls Corporate Enemies of the Internet because they do business with authoritarian regimes, including Syria. Among the companies the group named is Sunnyvale-based Blue Coat Systems, whose name has popped up over the years in many reports about American companies providing technology that helps various countries with censorship and more. A Blue Coat spokeswoman told CNet: “There are bad actors in the world and … our products, like any technology, can be misused for malign purposes. We support freedom of expression and do not design our products, or condone their use, to suppress human rights.”


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