In a conflict as grisly as Syria’s civil war, getting humanitarian aid to those who need it can be a life-threatening affair. Fortunately for those hoping to help, data from sources like Twitter, YouTube, and a range of others lets researchers turn war into a giant data science project, helping understand the tension between groups, how armed they are, and where they’re headed next.
One year ago, Palantir Technologies donated their data organization software to nonprofit the Carter Center. “We wanted to see who the biggest fish amongst the opposition are, everyone relates to one another, and who’s funding who,” says Christopher McNaboe, who works on the Syria Conflict Mapping project. Now that the the U.N. has granted unauthorized border crossing into Syria to provide relief, that data can finally be put into action.
As hundreds of thousands of civilians die in the civil war in Syria, it appears that the country’s embattled dictator, president Bashar Al-Assad, has launched a new social media strategy to go along with his chemical weapons: showing lots of pictures of how everyone loves him.
Skype is the go-to social network for communication between rebels, anti-government activists, journalists and officials inside and outside of Syria.
Why? Skype uses wiretapping-resistant Voice over IP (VoIP) technology, making it safer for transmitting messages while under the watchful eyes and ears of government censors. It’s free to download and easy to use, both positives for cash-strapped rebels and activists. Its video-based chatting makes it easier to identify the person on the other line, important when verifying information as legit amidst the fog of war. And it provides an easy way for Syrians to gather electronically in areas where assembling in person poses too great a security risk.
Syria: Songs of Defiance, a new film about the violence in Syria airing on Al Jazeera, was filmed by an undercover journalist using an iPhone, letting him get shots the Syrian government won’t allow regular TV journalists.
Tunisia has been overthrown. Egypt is tottering. Think there’ll be more to come? Maybe. In the wake of those uprisings, pages have begun popping up on Facebook, calling for protests to begin in Syria on February 4th and 5th. It’s not clear what impact these pages will actually have on the ground, but click through for a roundup of the potential scenario.