Iran : How I Helped Tweet the Revolution from San Francisco

Students turn to Twitter. This photo from June 15, 2009 shows a picture of defeated Iranian presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, left bottom, next to a broken computer monitor in a room in a Tehran University dormitory after it was attacked by militia forces during riots in Tehran, Iran, in the early hours Monday. Photo from AP.

The State Department asked social-networking site Twitter to delay scheduled maintenance earlier this week to avoid disrupting communications among tech-savvy Iranian citizens as they took to the streets to protest Friday’s reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The move illustrates the growing influence of online social-networking services as a communications media. Foreign news coverage of the unfolding drama, meanwhile, was limited by Iranian government restrictions barring journalists from “unauthorized” demonstrations. — Washington Post

The Revolution will be Tweeted

Twitter hashtags created an instantaneous collectivity that could never be created by mainstream media.

By Austin Heap / June 16, 2009

Also see ‘Cyberwar guide for Iran,’ by Cory Doctorow, Below.

SAN FRANCISCO — It all started at 10:40 p.m. on an otherwise quiet Sunday night. After talking about the Iranian election on and off for several hours, I saw a tweet (a message on Twitter) that pointed out CNN’s failure to cover the story. As an obviously rigged election in one of the world’s most important countries was being perpetrated, America’s oldest 24-hour news network was reporting primarily about how confusing the new fangled digital TVs were.

“Dear CNN: please report about Iran, not Twitter. #cnnfail #iranelection,” a user by the name of nympholepsy wrote. The dual hashtags (the pound symbol before a subject, which allows users to search for all tweets on the topic) opened the door for me, a 25-year old who had never even traveled to the Middle East, to become an activist in Iran.

It was probably the tag #cnnfail that appealed to me at first. In 2000, the first presidential election for which I was truly cognizant, I watched as legitimate claims of voter suppression in my native state of Ohio and across the country were ignored by the mainstream media as conspiracy theories.

If the media failed, the populace was complicit. There were no protests that rocked the stability of our government, no mass movements against the subversion of our democracy.

But the other tag, #iranelection, did not have the luxury of our delusion. Even before the ridiculously lopsided results were released, opposition headquarters were sacked, dissidents arrested. The government of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamene Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wanted to minimize the threat of any opposition leaders organizing a revolution against it. Unfortunately for them, this revolution did not need figureheads to lead it. The Ayatollah had not read the lessons of Moldova, where protestors used sites like Twitter to organize mass protests in April against the Communist government.

Through the power of social networking, individual Iranians were also able to mobilize each other. Twitter hashtags created an instantaneous collectivity that could never be created by mainstream media. When the government realized what was happening, they tried to shut it down. Members of the tech community across the globe did what they could to support it. We started posting functioning relays (or proxies) through which Iranians could subvert government firewalls.

The spontaneity of the tech movement was also one of its weaknesses. With so many updates at #iranelection, it became hard to tell which relays were working and which were not. I started monitoring all of the proxies and created a webpage that listed which proxies were functioning. I asked people I had never met to send messages to me on Twitter to let me know the status of each proxy. And they did.

But that information was public. Anyone on Twitter could find it. Anyone could access the page I had created. When Iran’s Guardian Council began monitoring tweets, other members of the community reported it to me. We had to adapt instantly in order to maintain the ability of the Iranian opposition to mobilize. I quickly set up a secure page. Instead of asking people to send me relays publicly, I now asked for them to be sent via Direct Message or e-mail. They came in a flood.

My website has been attacked by Iran. My servers are melting. But individuals in the opposition are still able to use technology to mobilize each other. And the tech community around the world is still able to support them.

Now, less than 24 hours later, I am receiving more than 2,000 simultaneous connections per second from Iran. When I wake up, I will have received more than 300 e-mails from volunteers trying to contribute and lighting the path forward for a movement that is both new and old.

Americans ignored the subversion of their democracy. When a people better than us stood up to secure theirs, I could not let them down. The revolution may not be televised, but it will be tweeted.

Source / New American Media

Cyberwar guide for Iran

By Cory Doctorow / June 16, 2009

Yishay sez, “The road to hell is paved with the best intentions (including mine). Learn how to actually help the protesters and not the gov’t in Iran.”

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

1. Do NOT publicise 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, DM them to @stopAhmadi or @iran09 and they will distribute 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 your bull$hit filter up! Security forces are now setting up twitter accounts to spread disinformation by posing as Iranian protesters. Please don’t retweet 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 us.

5. Don’t blow their cover! If you discover a genuine source, please don’t publicise 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…

Source / boingboing

Thanks to Roger Baker and Harry Edwards / The Rag Blog

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