Social Media and the Art of Revolution

Egypt was a trip, wasn’t it?  An Internet enabled populous came together to topple a repressive regime.  Who knows where that one will go, but it started a ripple that became a wave that is becoming a tsunami!

This week, in Iran, big protests are planned around the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution that brought down the Shah.  The government, doing pre-emptive damage control, has shut down access to Internet based email services like gmail and social networking sites like Facebook.  That’s exactly what Mubarak tried to do in Egypt, but he was too late to stop the brewing storm.

Meanwhile, back here, we have had a boisterous debate about SOPA and PIPA, two bills aimed at controlling what we can and cannot access on the web.  A group of popular websites went dark a couple of weeks ago to protest the looming vote and users were urged to write their legislators (I did).  Seems both pieces of legislation are now stalled.  Thank goodness.

One of the hallmarks of a free society is open access to information.  As soon as someone or some group starts deciding what we can and cannot see . . . well, take a look at Iran, at Cuba, at North Korea.

Heck:  I was half joking when I said we should pull all troups out of Afghanistan and simply air-drop smart phones on major population centers . . . but, seriously, I think we might accomplish more for less if we did!

Here’s the good news about the situation in Iran:  There is a US based initiative called Project TOR that screws up an entity’s ability to spot the kind of Internet traffic the Iranian government is trying to shut down.  They – the government – can spot ‘dangerous’ traffic by the kind of encryption that is used.  TOR gives people the ability to surf anonymously and disguises the encryption so that it looks innocuous.  It’s like a new Millennium version of Radio Free Europe!

Dang! I love the Internet Age, don’t you?