Iran Elections: Iran's Government tries to block the Internet

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For the third straight day, protests have rocked Iran from large cities like Tehran to small towns and villages. The very idea that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be reelected in a fixed vote count has stirred the passions of millions of Iranians and the World's watching this revolution in the making.

Twitter, again, has been the communications focus of the goings on in Iran, almost exclusively. The micro-blogging service's importance has become so great the U.S. State Department asked the San Francisco firm to avoid shutting down for maintenance, but it did, for just one hour and according to the Twitter blog, just enough time to increase capacity to handle the demands of this event. 

The amount of information communicated through Twitter has been of stagger proportions. While Kara Swisher may write that some say Twitter is "inane and half-baked",, the fact that Iranians can use their cell phones to tweet information and share photos has done more than the mainstream media in telling the World what's happening. And what's happening now is the Iran government's attempting to block all Internet information from "escaping" the country; they've targeted blogs, websites, and now email accounts. The security minders have used Twitter to ferret out the in-country communicators but without much success; the constant use of new tags combined with the Iran government's lack of expertise with Twitter, has made their effort a cat-and-mouse game.

Meanwhile the information continues:

redditgirl reports Gmail is accessible by proxy. Another tweet by someone reports on gunshot wounds being treated. Yet another reads that Yahoo main can be had via proxy. A whole new set of web proxies has developed to get around the Iranian Government. And at this point you're wondering just what the hell a proxy is? The simplest explaination is proxies a way of using another online IP identification to get around systems that block standard ones. This cyber organic process of evolution is a wonder to watch and to be a part of. People around the World, but especially in North America and Europe, have taken part in the formation of a way out for Iran protest information. Essentially, the World is working against the Iranian Government. Consider this "Cyber War Guide" to helping protestors:

The purpose of this guide is to help you participate constructively in the Iranian election protests through Twitter.

1. Do NOT publicize proxy IP’s over Twitter, and especially not using the #iranelection hashtag. Security forces are monitoring this hashtag, and the moment they identify a proxy IP they will block it in Iran. If you are creating new proxies for the Iranian bloggers, DIRECT MESSAGE them to @stopAhmadi or @iran09 and they will distributed them discretely to bloggers in Iran.

2. Hashtags, the only two legitimate hashtags being used by bloggers in Iran are #iranelection and #gr88, other hashtag ideas run the risk of diluting the conversation.

3. Keep you bull$hit filter up! Security forces are now setting up twitter accounts to spread disinformation by posing as Iranian protesters. Please don’t re-tweet impetuously, try to confirm information with reliable sources before retweeting. The legitimate sources are not hard to find and follow.

4. Help cover the bloggers: change your twitter settings so that your location is TEHRAN and your time zone is GMT +3.30. Security forces are hunting for bloggers using location and timezone searches. If we all become ‘Iranians’ it becomes much harder to find them.

5. Don’t blow their cover! If you discover a genuine source, please don’t publicize their name or location on a website. These bloggers are in REAL danger. Spread the word discretely through your own networks but don’t signpost them to the security forces. People are dying there, for real, please keep that in mind…

This has been passed and copied from blog to website to blog, and now, it's news and away from the clutches of the Iranian Government. (When one starts to refer to a government in terms reserved for monster movies, you know it's got a problem. And on that note, the blog iRevolution has great tips on using the Internet to get information out and around "represssive environments.")

Fake Twitter Accounts

And on the matter of repressive environments comes a list from the blog of "fake Twitter accounts" believed to be created by the Iranian Government. One is to block these accounts:

# (unconfirmed)
# (Retweeting same message over and over)
# (Writing fake articles on the Iranian Election Twitters)

The Beauty of Flickr in all this mess

Twitter's also a kind of portal to other online social networking content platforms, like Flickr.

And what's happening on Flickr's a mess.

One of the most popular destinations has been the Flickr page owned by faramarz, who 's uploaded photos of protests and violence are both breathtaking and shocking.

What is amazing to see is the number  of Twitter accounts that have changed their identification photos to green in solidarity with Iran's protest movement.  I can't say I've ever seen anything like this and I have to totally disagree with those who's tried to downplay Twitter's impact and laugh at TIME Magazine CEO Ann Moore, who talked of "putting the digital genie back in the bottle" as if it can be controlled. What a howler!

I've said this to anyone regardless of their attention span: New Media is organic and not something one can "control" because it's nature - in technology and in application - is to spread out, seek new areas, and avoid being trapped. It's a pure reflection of and expression of the human desire for freedom. A fact that scares the hell out of control freaks everywhere.

We're witnessing the full-flowering of the potential of New Media as it has evolved to this point. The next level will be when we're able to see live streams of events via Twitter or a Twitter-like system.   Perhaps the cellphone-based service holds the key as it improves in product quality.  Time will tell, and it seems sooner rather than later.
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