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Who Is Syrian Electronic Army: 9 Facts

Syrian hackers claim to battle American imperialism, media bias and Angelina Jolie.
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The Syrian Electronic Army most likely wasn't created to serve as a social media nuisance operation for revenging perceived slights against the Assad regime, perpetrated by Western media. So, where did it come from?

By some accounts, the group began as a grassroots movement, staffed by "volunteers without any known backing" who proved their mettle, gaining the support of Assad "loyalists" as well as the head of the country himself.

But according to a National Public Radio report in March 2013, the Syrian Electronic Army was launched by the Syrian government in 2011 to use Facebook to identify, track and facilitate the arrest -- and according to critics of the regime, torture -- of anti-government activists.

Syrian hacker Ahmad Heidar ("Harvester") told NPR that in the summer of 2011, as protests in Syria began to spread and intensify, a government recruiter signed him up to the new unit, which operated from an underground bunker filled with state-of-the-art computer equipment. Heidar was told that working for the unit would count toward his mandatory national military service, and one of his tasks was to hack into the Facebook and Skype accounts of arrested activists, to remove all traces of their anti-government work.

In response to the report, the Syrian Electronic Army last month hacked into the National Public Radio Twitter feed.

Photograph courtesy of Flickr user James Gordon.

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