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Twitter and the ayatollahs

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All eyes on Andrew Sullivan, un-pigeon-hole-able author and activist, reporting the Iranian and election and its aftermath via his Twitter account, DailyDish.

He’s collected his tweets (up till June 16) at his spot on The Atlantic website, including from early:

“Mssg from Twitter: Our…partners at NTT America recognize the role Twitter is currently playing as an important communication tool in Iran.”

Use of the #nomaintenance tag persuaded Twitter not to shut down for maintenance yesterday. They are running Twitter for the Iranian democrats.

The scales have fallen from Sullivan’s eyes:

“I have to say my skepticism about this new medium has now disappeared. Without it, one wonders if all this could have happened. A reader notes a few facts:

Ahmadinejad’s and Khamenei’s websites were taken down yesterday – I saw the latter go down within a couple of minutes because of a DDOS attack organised via Twitter. @StopAhmadi is a good source for tweets on this. The other important use of Twitter has been distribution of proxy addresses via Twitter. This would be how most video and pictures of today’s rally have gotten out.

Technology has not just made the world more dangerous; it has also enabled freedom to keep one small step in front of tyranny and lies.”

Will the ayatollahs now close Twitter in Iran?

Note to self:

“Please remember that this is about the future of the Iranian people. While it might be exciting to get caught up in the flow of participating in a new meme, do not lose sight of what this is really about.”

How to support Iranian twitterers.

Update: scholars of the Iranian and Arabic blogospheres write in the Washington Post – Reading Twitter in Tehran? Why the real revolution is on the streets – and offline.

“Paradoxically, the “freedom to scream” online may actually assist authoritarian regimes by serving as a political release valve of sorts. If dissent is channeled into cyberspace, it can keep protesters off the streets and help state security forces track political activism and new online voices. As Egyptian democracy activist Saad Ibrahim said last week during a discussion at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, this appears to be part of a long tradition for governments in the Middle East, especially in Egypt, where dissent is channeled into universities and allowed to thrive there, as long as it does not escape the university walls.

With so many individuals overcoming government efforts to block online communication, particularly via Twitter, it is notable that the Iranian government has not shut down Internet access completely. Similarly, as we discovered in our recent study of the Arabic blogosphere, the Egyptian government tolerates extensive blogging by the Muslim Brotherhood while outlawing its other activities. The Chinese often ease the harshest of their Internet regulations over time. And the military junta in Burma didn’t keep the Net down for long. Ultimately, almost all such regimes choose to leave the Internet more open than closed, then move to regulate specific activities that they deem worrisome.

After all, it appears that people living under authoritarian regimes such as the one in Iran are as addicted to the Internet as the rest of us are. Even though states push back, they can’t keep the Internet down for long without serious blowback from their citizens. Iranian officials have the power to shutter the Internet just as they once clamped down on reformist newspapers, but they may be more concerned now about any move that pushes those watching — or blogging or tweeting — from the sidelines into the throngs of protesters already in the streets”

See also this from the Berkman Institute of Internet and Society on shutting the blogosphere.

And Patrick Meier, also at Harvard, who understands this stuff and is updating his piece on how to communicate securely in repressive environments.

I hope colleagues understand now that ‘techies’ are not to be maligned – well, not simply for being techies, anyway.

Reading Twitter in Tehran?

Why the real revolution is on the streets — and offline.


Written by Mira Vogel

June 16, 2009 at 09:58