5 Ways The World is Using Technology to Support the Green Movement in Iran
Coverage of the green movement has more than fallen to the wayside in most media but, rest assured, it still exists. International supporters, as we learned in 2009, can only do so much to keep a movement going and help it to be successful, but what global civil society can do is important and worth highlighting and building on. Here are some ventures I’ve come across recently that seem to be doing cool/important work in this arena.
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Coverage of Iran’s Green Movement (the social movement following Iran’s 2009 elections to remove President Ahmadinejad from power) has more than fallen to the wayside in most media but, rest assured, it still exists. International supporters, as we learned in 2009, can only do so much to keep a movement going and help it to be successful, but what global civil society can do is important and worth highlighting and building on. Here are some ventures I’ve come across recently that seem to be doing cool/important work in this arena.
1. The Tor project and circumvention of censorship
“In a short few months, Iran has vastly improved the sophistication of their censorship technologies,” wrote Tor on January 20th. Ahead of February 14th’s anticipated protests, the regime was able to choke off Tor’s connections. Many online activists had come to rely on than anonymity provided by the software, and use went dramatically down after Iranian authorities stepped up their game. This meant that people who had been relying on the Tor network to more securely access sites ahead of planned demonstrations could no longer do so.
Since then, the online anonymity and circumvention network has been doing its best to keep users ahead of the Iranian cyber army. They reconfigured their software so they could continue to deceive even the new and more advanced spying tactics being used. According to Tor, use of the software has returned to normal levels because of these changes.
Kind of like this site but just for Iranians, Tavaana (the name means “empowered” and “capable” in Persian) is an e-learning site for Iranian civil society. They also hold live online courses that you can take anonymously self-paced course anytime, anywhere, anonymously and free of charge. Their site seems to be a little out of date, but I like the idea of a training oriented site that’s targeted to one country, especially considering the unique nature of Iran as compared to other (Arabic speaking) countries in the region, and also the importance of this training there.
3. Amplifying sentiments of green movement activists
With the tagline “Echoing the Iranian people’s demands for human rights and justice,” A Million Voices for Iran also sort of encapsulates what the international community can do to support domestic human rights activism: build awareness, keep media attention trained on relevant events, and connect with actual people on the ground in the given country to make sure accurate stories are coming out. They’ve got toothier goals, too, in the form of a call on world governments to ban travel and freeze accounts of Iranian officials, and begin procedings to charge the Iranian regime with human rights violations at the Hague. They’re using a petition to get support for this.
Similarly, the Iran Channel’s stated goal is “to provide English-language news and information about the broad Iranian democratic movement against the Islamic Republic of Iran. It also provides information to the protest movement inside Iran.”
Held together by a simple website, a Twitter feed and a Facebook page, United4Iran is a network of activists around the world who are paying attention to events there (including human and civil rights abuses). Sometimes that’s all you can do, and it’s important to have a network in place so it can be activated if need be.
4. Proxies and DDoS attack prevention
We saw groups like Tor, Telecomix and Anonymous coming together to aid Egyptians when internet access was shut off there, and it’s not farfetched to expect these loose networks to come together to aid the green movement in Iran were there an impetus to do so. Meanwhile, h ackers and regular people alike have been opening up proxies and reserving them exclusively for Iranian internet users, and organizations dedicated to keeping Iranians connected (details have to be kept private) are providing direct resources for dealing with DDoS attacks. These attacks are more and more common and crippling, which only underlines the importance of beefing up international groups’ ability to work with Iranians in fighting back.
5. Technology companies and entrepreneurs taking action
After an easing on US restrictons on exports Google finally (after much demand by activists within Iran) released its browser Chrome, its photo sharing service Picasa, and Google Earth for download in Iran. On the move, head of public policy said
“There are many activist layers on Google Earth. Anyone can create a layer to show exactly what is going on in Iran…in a country with a history of government surveillance it is useful having a browser that can’t easily be hacked.”
Another project that built up steam as a result of Egypt’s net shut down was open mesh, an plan for an ad-hoc wireless network that angel investor Shervin Pishevar created with partner Gary Jay Brooks. Hard to say how quickly that project is moving forward or if it is at all, but another ad-hoc network tool, called Daihinia, already exists. Check that out.
Susannah Vila directs content and outreach at Movements.org, an organization dedicated to identifying, connecting and supporting activists using technology to organize for social change. Connect with her on Twitter @susannahvila or @aym
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