Victory! After a Change.org petition gathered 20,000 signatures, Italian company Area SpA has withdrawn support for a controversial project that would have enabled Syrian forces to track online activities and locations of activists.
The petition was launched by Access, an internet freedom group, and Anas Qtiesh, a well-known Syrian tech blogger, after news broke in early November that a small group of American and European tech companies were building a system designed to help the Syrian regime track down dissidents online.
Earlier this week, Area SpA, who were heading the project, finally bowed to weeks of pressure and withdrew from the project.
"The fact that these companies were even doing this sort of business in Syria in the first place is highly damning of their ethical standards," said Brett Solomon, Director of Access. "While I'm relieved that this project has stopped, it's clear that we can't leave it to profit-driven businesses to make choices about what technology is being sold where.
“In the hands of a repressive government, this technology is as dangerous as any weapon,” Solomon continued, “and we'll be campaigning to make sure that its international sale is stopped in the future."
"I'm excited that these companies have stopped working on this atrocious project," said Anas Qtiesh, the Syrian blogger working with Access. "I hope their owners and investors realize that pursuing profits in working with authoritarian regimes would eventually harm their bottom line, tarnish their brand, and compromise future business opportunities – not to mention that such endeavors endanger the lives and freedoms of the people of Syria."
US Senators Mark Kirk, Republican, and Robert Casey, Democrat, issued a statement demanding immediate investigation into the deal between these companies and the Syrian government. They have also demanded the U.S. suspend further projects with California-based NetApp, which supplied technology to the Syrian internet monitoring project.