People in Iran are taking it to the streets, much as Ukrainian did in late 2004, in what became know as the “Orange Revolution.” In Ukraine, there was real election fraud. The ensuing protests lasted for weeks, and new elections were ordered. Through the Internet, news was getting out continuously and people unified/organized their protests.
What’s happening in Iran? Were the elections rigged? News is getting out, in spite of Tehran’s two main routers being blocked for a while. Amazingly, the U.S. State Department actually asked Twitter to reschedule maintenance:
Senior officials say the State Department is working with Twitter and other social networking sites to ensure Iranians are able to continue to communicate to each other and the outside world.
By necessity, the US is staying hands off of the election drama playing out in Iran, and officials say they are not providing messages to Iranians or “quarterbacking” the disputed election process.
But they do want to make sure the technology is able to play its sorely-needed role in the crisis, which is why the State Department is advising social networking sites to make sure their networks stay up and running for Iranians to use them and helping them stay ahead of anyone who would try to shut them down.
For example, senior officials say the State Department asked Twitter to refrain for going down for periodic scheduled maintenance at this critical time to ensure the site continues to operate. Bureau’s and offices across the State Department, they say, are paying very close attention to Twitter and other sites to get information on the situation in Iran.
Because the US has no relations with Iran and does not have an embassy there, it is relying on media reports and the State Department’s Iran Watch Offices in embassies around the world. The largest such offices are in Dubai, Berlin and London, all home to large Iranian expat communities.
But officials say the internet, and specifically social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, are providing the United States with critical information in the face of a crackdown on journalists by Iranian authorities.
Noah Shactman reports in Wired’s Danger Room on citizen-based warfare:
More and more of Iran’s pro-government websites are under assault, as opposition forces launch web attacks on the Tehran regime’s online propaganda arms.
What started out as an attempt to overload a small set of official sites has now expanded, network security consultant Dancho Danchev notes. News outlets like Raja News are being attacked, too. The semi-official Fars News site is currently unavailable.
“We turned our collective power and outrage into a serious weapon that we could use at our will, without ever having to feel the consequences. We practiced distributed, citizen-based warfare,” writes Matthew Burton, a former U.S. intelligence analyst who joined in the online assaults, thanks to a “push-button tool that would, upon your click, immediately start bombarding 10 Web sites with requests.”
Love the Internet — for many reasons. Who would have thought it could do so much as a great equalizer? Think about all the businesses it’s turned upside-down — and what it has done for informing all who want to know.
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