Day 1,173: What should Facebook do about the Syrian election?


Syrians feed pigeons on a square where are displayed giant campaign billboards bearing portraits of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on June 1, 2014 in the capital Damascus.


Joseph Eid

Today is Day 1,173 of the Syrian conflict.

The presidential election is tomorrow, and human-rights activists want Facebook to take down the campaign page for sitting president Bashar al-Assad. Talking to reporters for The Guardian, one pointed out that Assad "has been widely accused of war crimes," and said that "the fact that Facebook is allowing Assad to use its services for his campaign should be beyond the pale."

What really got people going may not have been the campaign page itself, but rather the advertisements for the campaign that, according to The Guardian, started to appear on some people's personal pages. Facebook's algorithm matches ads to people's interests, but apparently because of the crudeness of the algorithm, the ads were targeting Syrians opposed to Assad, as well. Facebook has since removed the ads, saying that they "violate our policies," but the spokesperson also said "Facebook was not currently considering dropping the [campaign] site."

In other news, France today arrested four people in what the AP calls a "sweep against French jihadist recruiters." France has long been worried about the threat of radicalized fighters returning from Syria to plan terror attacks at home (the UK and US are worried about this, too). Friday, a Frenchman who had spent time in Syria was arrested over an attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels. 

In case you needed convincing that the jihadist groups who have joined the fight against Assad in Syria are bad news: On Sunday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that fighters with the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS, or ISIL) had shot and killed a 102-year-old man in his sleep, along with killing his son, grandson, great-granddaughter, and her mother. "Some members of the family were burned alive."

The conflict continues.