Jun 26, 2009

Iranian protesters caught in the net

Farhad Manjoo at Slate throws some cold water on the theory that social networking tools have delivered the means to bring about revolution in Iran, and warns that these same tools have been wielded by the wicked to sew confusion and silence voices calling for reform. Manjoo writes:
Over the last couple of weeks, those who believe in the transformative powers of technology have pointed to Iran as a test case—one of the first repressive regimes to meet its match in social media, the first revolution powered by Twitter. Even in the early days of the protest, that story line seemed more hopeful than true, as Slate's Jack Shafer, among many others, pointed out. Since last week, though, when the state began to systematically clamp down on journalists and all communications networks leading out of the country, hope has become much harder to sustain. The conflicting accounts about what happened at Baharestan Square are evidence that Iran's media crackdown is working. The big story in Iran is confusion—on a daily basis, there are more questions than answers about what's really happening, about who's winning and losing, about what comes next. The surprise isn't that technology has given protesters a new voice. It's that, despite all the tech, they've been effectively silenced.


On Wednesday, a reader alerted the Lede to an Iranian government Web site called Gerdab.ir, where authorities had posted pictures of protesters and were asking citizens for help in identifying the activists. That's right—the regime is now using crowd-sourcing, one of the most-hyped aspects of Web 2.0 organizing, against its opponents. If you think about it, that's no surprise. Who said that only the good guys get to use the power of the Web to their advantage?
Meantime, the Washington Post reports that repressive regimes in China, Cuba and Burma have censored news of protests in Iran to ensure calls for democratic reform don't go viral.

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