The events in Iran the last several days illustrate a theme repeatedly at this year’s CFP in the panels on Internet censorship, China, anonymity, and social network activism: governments will routinely block access to the internet and SMS to prevent organizing. Or at least they’ll try to …
As the video of CFP08’s panel on Breaking the Silence: Iranians Find a Voice on the Internet discusses, activists in Iran have plenty of practice in getting around their government’s technical and legal restrictions. And so, despite horrendously slow internet speeds in Iran and multiple reports that the government is blocking SMS and Facebook, there continue to be viable communication channels in cyberspace:
- Octavia Nasr’s Tear gas and Twitter: Iranians take their protests online on CNN.com, the BBC’s Internet brings events to life and Ben Parr’s HOW TO: Track Iran Election with social media on Mashable are excellent overviews.
- Tehran Bureau, the bloggers at niacINsight, Nico Pitney at the Huffington Post, Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic , and the New York Times’ The Lede and many others highlight and contextualize the online news.
- Blogs like Raye Man Kojast? Where Is My Vote?, 25khordad, Flickr, YouTube, and aggregators like Iran primary sources are also playing important roles in keeping information flowing.
- Twitter is a particularly vibrant source of first-person information and links via the #iranelection hashtag. Twazzup’s page is a great way to view it.
Additional resources for people in Iran:
- proxy servers can often let you access sites the government is trying to block. How do I use a proxy server? has instructions for many different browsers. Austin Heap has been keeping an updated list of available proxy servers and there’s also a lot of information on Twitter.
- If you need to remain anonymous, Tor can help — there’s a Farsi download page at گمنامی آنلاين : Tor For bloggers, Global Voices Advocacy’s Anonymous blogging with Wordpress and Tor is important reading. There’s a lot more information and many additional tools at sesawe.net, which also has Farsi-language pages.
At CFP09, Gaurav, Ralf, Nancy and I ended the Online activism around the world panel discussing with a sobering discussion of whether social network sites favored grassroots activists or regimes in power. At least so far, the protestors in Iran seem to be using the Internet to route around censorship, and social networks — Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Facebook — are a huge part of it.
Twitter figures prominently in the “coverage of the coverage”, with headlines across the world like La révolution n’est pas télévisée, elle est twiterrisée and Twitter links Iran protestors to the outside world. Twazzup, who provided a custom page for CFP09, has done a great job steadly enhancing their Iran coverage. Dolores M. Bernal’s Twitter users shame CNN for not covering Iran elections, riots on News Junkie, Mark Drapeau’s How online word-of-mouth can change mainstream election media coverage in the Examiner, and Brian Stelter’s Real-time criticism of CNN’s coverage of Iran in the New York Times illustrate the effect Twitter can have on other media. As Ralf said in our panel, Twitter changes everything … hopefully enough to make a difference.