Even when the government was able to restrict some access to
the microblogging site, users were still able to utilize Twitter
through other services, such as Twitterfall,
where the Iranian government had a much more difficult time
controlling. Another means to bypass the government's intervention was
re-routing to proxy servers. These servers employ IP addresses that are
not on the government's forbidden list - which in turn allows the
servers to redirect the information to other Web sites, even those on
the government's restricted list.
Shut down the Internet?
the only means that the government could have used to completely stop
the flow of information during the Iranian Election protests was to ban
any and all access to the Internet. This was a step the government never took.
Doing so might have risked shutting down vital government and economic
services as well, and they wisely chose not to cut off their nose to
spite the face.
The Iranian Blogfather
According to Jahan News website, Iranian blogger, Hossein Derakhshan (aka
Hoder), a prolific blogger often described as the godfather of the
Iranian blogosphere, was arrested In Tehran in 2008. The
Canadian-Iranian citizen had been credited with igniting a Web-based
"revolution" earlier in the decade, in which Iranians began criticizing
the regime by blogging, texting and using social media outlets like
Facebook and Twitter.
He has stirred controversy in both the US and Iran,
calling for reform and criticizing the regime. At other times however,
he has praised Ahmadinejad, criticized the US, and stated that he would
not hesitate to fight for Iran if the US ever attacked. Now, the
35-year-old Derakhshan has been accused of giving up names to the
Iranian government of others involved in anti-government organizing. To
date, it is not been ascertained if Derakhshan is being used as a pawn
or coerced to testify in support of the government.
Mobilizing the Diaspora
In 2006, the Iranian diaspora or ex-pats were estimated to be between 2 to 4 million people around
the world. According to the U.S.-based Migration Policy Institute,
Iran's emigrant population is "extremely heterogeneous with respect to
ethnicity, religion, social status, language, gender, political
affiliation, education, legal status, and timing and motivation for
departure (ranging from political to sociocultural to economic)." The
largest concentration of Iranians outside of Iran, the report finds,
"reside in the United States, followed by Canada, Germany, Sweden, and
Organizing the Activists
networking outside of Iran was key to the explosive reliance on these
tools. With restricted access, slow Internet service, and limited
knowledge of events inside the country, Iranians have turned to
activists outside the country to help facilitate the transfer of
Read my previous blog, 'Iranian Activist Fights With Top Social Media Tool Of The Decade,'
pertaining to the opposition activist Mohsen Sazegara living the States
in Virginia using YouTube as his prime social media weapon of choice.
The Social Networking Rules Work
Here Comes Everybody by Clay ShirkyIn his seminal book Here Comes Everybody,
Clay Shirky outlines the principles for effective adoption of
social-networking tools. Shirky's rules address the nature of the
technology, the structure of the social interaction, and the value
assigned to social-networking transactions.
* Technologies should be well established.
As Shirky points out, "new tools are not always better. New tools, in
fact, start with a huge social disadvantage, which is that most people
don't use them, and whenever you have a limited pool from which
potential members can be drawn, you limit the social effects." The
preference in social networking is to adopt proven and widely available
software and systems.
* Systems should seem simple.
Shirky notes as an example that, "the basic bargain Wikipedia offers is
that you can edit anyone else's writings and anyone else can edit
yours." Simple rules and simple operational routines are the hallmark
of widespread adoption of social-networking tools.
* There has to be something in it for the user.
"Social tools don't create new motivations so much as amplify existing
ones," says Shirky. Users are drawn to social networks because they
believe participation will bring them a benefit that they want.
The Iranian case appears to validate Shirky's rule set.
Even Twitter, among the newest of the social-networking tools widely
used during the protests is two years old. Additionally, Twitter is
among the simplest of online communities to participate in. Twitter and
other social-networking sites were popular in Iran because they
provided something people wanted--a "space" where they could share
ideas and protest against the ills of state with people inside the
country and around the world.
2010 and Beyond
do Iranian bloggers, citizen journalists and ex-pats go from here? We
are inspired by their noble cause and their bravery in the face of what
appears to be insurmountable odds. The government is trying hard to
keep the Iranian people and the world at large from learning the full
extent of its abuses. Foreign correspondents have largely been barred
from the country and native journalists risk their lives daily by just
doing their jobs. Many are forced into exile leaving a country they
love. One can only guess what fate awaits protesters who remain behind.
While the blogosphere continues to be robust and the social networking sites of Twitter and Evgeny MorozovFacebook
prove a viable resource for communicating dissent to global audiences,
this is only one side of the coin. The blogosphere should also be
examined as to how it benetis the the Iranian government as well.
In a blog titled, 'Iran's propaganda hits the Spinternet,'
by Evgeny Morozov, his view through the looking glass sheds some
additional light. He wisely cautions, that while "making our way
through billions of Twitter and Facebook updates, we should not lose
sight of one critical feature of the digital age - the wealth of
information trails generated by digital activists has also provided
authoritarian governments with better means to identify and squash
emerging threats to their hegemony." As with every opposing faction,
whether it is a full-blown war or protests on the streets of Tehran,
while the tools can amplify the message, sometimes it's not the volume
that's necessary if it displaces the voice of reason.