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Cablegate: Fun While It Lasted - Facebook Blocked From Tunisia

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTU #0926 2321457
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 191457Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY TUNIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5497
INFO RUEHC/ALL NEAR EAST COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS TUNIS 000926

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

FOR ECA/PE/V/R/N (LIBBY GOMEZ); NEA/PPD (AGNEW, ORESTE,
DOUGLAS); NEA/MAG (WILLIAMS, PATTERSON, STEWART)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO OEXC PHUM SCUL TS
SUBJECT: FUN WHILE IT LASTED - FACEBOOK BLOCKED FROM TUNISIA

REF: TUNIS 852

1. (SBU) Summary. As of August 18, access to popular social
networking web site Facebook has been blocked from Tunisia.
Facebook joins the long list of political, human rights and
social networking web sites blocked by the Tunisian
authorities. End summary.

2. (SBU) Beginning on the evening of August 18, Internet
users trying to access Facebook received a
spurious "file not found" message. While some users may
succeed for the time being in entering the site via mirror
hosts (the French version of Facebook, for example), past
experience has shown that Tunisian censors will soon track
down and plug those leaks in their filtering software.

3. (SBU) This blocking of the Facebook base URL includes the
U.S. Embassy Tunis Facebook page which went live on July 29
(REFTEL). As evidence of the growing popularity of Facebook,
mostly among young Tunisians at home and abroad, Facebook's
Tunisia network has grown from a little over 23,000 members
at the launch of the Embassy page three weeks ago to almost
29,000 members today. The Embassy Tunis page itself has
garnered numerous posts and 154 self-designated "friends" to
date.

4. (SBU) Comment. Restrictions on the Internet are
frustrating for activists and ordinary web surfers alike,
though savvy users are often able to find work-arounds
Attempts to control the Internet do come with a cost,
however, as the resultant unreliable service has direct
economic consequences. Ironically, the GOT recently stopped
blocking the Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch web
sites. Clearly, the uncontrolled information sharing of
social networking sites like Facebook is now beginning to
worry the Tunisian authorities. Such sites provide a means
to circumvent strict government control of domestic print and
broadcast media. The decision to block Facebook has also
stifled what was promising to be a very useful outreach tool
for the Embassy. End comment.
GODEC

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