Canadian, American and German web servers hosting Syrian government websites could be in violation of sanctions against Damascus, a report has said on Sunday.
The government websites, including one belonging to a Syrian state-backed television station being hosted in Canada, incite violence and support the crackdown on civilians led by the embattled President Bashar al-Assad and his regime, writes an academic study from the University of Toronto.
“Our findings peel back the layers of a complex, highly nuanced, and often seamy world of Web hosting,” said Ron Deibert a director at Citizen Lab, a research organization based out of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.
“… Syrian government websites, including a Syrian state-backed television station known to be inciting violence, are hosted in Canada is at minimum in contradiction to Canada’s stated foreign policy and possibly [providing] material support to a regime that is now globally condemned for its repression and violence,” Deibert said.
The report, entitled The Canadian Connection: An investigation of Syrian government and Hezbollah Web hosting in Canada, found that 17 of the Syrian government sites were hosted in Canada, while seven were found to be hosted by the U.S. and two in Germany.
The United Nations estimates more than 3,500 Syrians have been killed since anti-government protests erupted in March. The Canadian government has imposed sanctions against the Syrian government, which includes a dealings prohibition on additional members of the regime and those who provide it with support, and has called for the ouster of Assad and his regime.
Despite this, web pages belonging to Syria’s Ministries of Culture, Transport as well as the Syrian TV station Addounia are still being hosted in Canada.
Addounia TV has been sanctioned in the past by both the Canadian government and the European Union for inciting violence against Syrian citizens.
Two sites — addounia.tv and addounia.org — are hosted by iWeb Technologies, a Montreal-based Web-streaming platform iWeb, according to the report.
iWeb was not immediately available for comment when contacted by Al Arabiya. Canada’s Foreign Ministry, however, said it was investigating the report’s findings, according to the Post.
The study also found that web pages for Lebanese movement Hezbollah, such as a page belonging to Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television station, were being hosted by servers in Canada and the U.S. Both countries classify Hezbollah as a terrorist group, the Post noted.
“Web hosting companies flinch at the first sign of controversy, and big corporations have used this as a way to create a chilling effect and get content taken down, and that needs to be rectified,” Deibert said.
“But of equal concern is content that is linked to repression. Government has to give some direction here.”
(Written by Eman El-shenawi)