Iran: routing around censorship, blogging anonymously, and following the coverage online

persiankiwi: Internet very slow ...

from Twitter

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:

Additional resources for people in Iran:

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.

Tonight, we are all Iranians
CFP09 speaker Michael Anti, on Twitter


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5 Responses to “Iran: routing around censorship, blogging anonymously, and following the coverage online”

  1. JonPincus says:

    Two of the other panelists from Online activism around the world have opinions on this as well. In Engaging in Iran: The Contested Election, Twitter, and the Response Inside and Out, Nancy Scola comments

    As we saw in Moldova, the idea of a “Twitter Revolution” isn’t always borne out by the facts, at least to the extent that the uprising would have not taken place without the tool. At this historic moment in time, it’s fascinating to watch — and participate in — how a political conflict can evolve online, how those outside the immediate sphere of its influence have a role in the chain of events, and all that interest and passion can feed back into the cycle of how events play out.

    Gaurav Mishra is quoted in Rebecca Santana’s AP article Tweeting Iran: Elex news in 140 characters or less:

    “It’s sometimes difficult to differentiate the hype from the media,” he said. “Just because people are tweeting about something doesn’t mean that there’s actually coordination involved.”

    The article also quotes past CFP speaker and program committee member Robin Gross, several local Twitterers.

    “When I’m not connected to Twitter it means that I’m disconnected from the world because the state TV doesn’t report many things!” wrote one Twitter user who identifies himself as “hamednz” who communicated with The Associated Press through the e-mail. His profile says he lives in Rasht, a city to the north of Tehran near the Caspian Sea.

    Like all the Twitter users in Iran who agreed to be interviewed for this story, hamednz did not want his identity revealed for fear of retribution from government authorities….

    “The fact that the government is not able to stop all of the information is really key,” said Robin Gross, executive director of IP Justice, a San Francisco-based digital rights group. “They can only sort of censor in a patchwork way, and censorship by its nature has to be all or nothing.”

  2. [...] My post Iran: routing around censorship, blogging anonymously, and following the coverage online on the CFP blog from earlier this week has some additional links, as well as this tweet from [...]

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