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The New Arab Staff

US sanctions 'disrupts Google services' in Syria

Google's decision to pause and alter services comes amid US sanctions on Syria [NurPhoto/Getty]

Date of publication: 20 April, 2021

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US sanctions in Syria are preventing access to Google Play and limiting functionality of other apps, like YouTube.

Several Google services have been disrupted in Syria due to US sanctions, The New Arab’s Arabic-language sister site has reported.

The nationwide service interruption began at the start of April and most notably affects the Google Play Store, through which users download applications to their Android devices.

The Play Store has been completely halted by Google, according to application developer and engineer Ahmed Barbour.

He told The New Arab’s sister site, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, that the US Office of Foreign Assets Control placed Syria on the sanctions list recently.

Google then paused many of its commercial offerings and those featuring paid ads, he said, meaning users are turning to VPNs and location-changing applications to get around the restrictions.

Barbour relates that advertisers on YouTube and Snapchat have been affected with many users deleting the social media app off their devices because it has stopped working entirely.

He also said that some fear Facebook could place ads on WhatsApp, potentially disrupting the messaging service that many Syrians rely on to communicate with loved ones.

Chemical attack in Douma
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Syrians have also been unable to access vital information on Facebook due to promoted content being affected by the disruptions.

Ahmed Watad, a YouTuber from Idlib, opposition Syria, told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that his reliance on VPNs has reduced the numbers of videos he can publish.

Ahmed Hamou, who is interested in foreign currency exchange, said the VPN applications he relies on to access real-time information increases data use and depletes battery power quicker.

Even purchasing a Turkish SIM card did not fix the problem, since the restrictions are based on location.

Read more: Syria Weekly: Caesar Act to become law, with tough sanctions on Assad's torture enablers

Washington’s sanctions against Damascus have also had consequences on the international level.

Last month, the UAE said US sanctions resulting from the Caesar Act made it more difficult for Syria to rejoin the Arab League.

The law gets its name from a photographer who defected from the Assad regime in 2014 to expose images of 11,000 prisoners who died under torture.

The New Arab has approached Google for comment on the reports.

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