Social media has been of strategic use to protestors in the middle east seeking to organize protests against their government(s). Likewise, the governments spy on the citizens who use social media with technological tools and advances sold to them by western companies. The governments in turn use the information they uncover to arrest dissidents who they sometimes torture.
In response to the news that American and European corporations are aiding repressive middle eastern regimes, Republican Chris Smith introduced the Global Online Freedom Act of 2011 to ban exports of software and hardware used for monitoring and surveillance on the Internet. Just recently, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton asked corporations to be responsible with the exports of technology used to to spy on individuals in different countries.
Bloomberg news now a series discussing different individual cases when technology purchased by western corporations was used to stop protestors. In Tunisia, for example, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s government used advanced systems to intercept and change the content of emails sent by anyone thought to be fighting against the regime. When the content of emails was changed, it was often disturbing, threatening, or pornographic.
Since Bloomberg started reporting on the complacency of both European and American companies in their dealings with repressive regimes, some companies in the cyber industry have stopped selling their products to repressive middle eastern regimes.The Italian company Area SPa stopped selling surveillance technology to Syria after international pressure. American giant Hewlitt-Packard has not yet bowed to international pressure at the time of this writing; the company has actually sold computers to a company who is selling surveillance technology to the Syrian government.