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The Internet Helps Iran Silence Activists 232

Hugh Pickens writes "Over the last couple of weeks, those who believe in the transformative power of technology to battle an oppressive state have pointed to Iran as a test case. However, as Farhad Manjoo writes on Slate, the real conclusion about news now coming out of Iran is that for regimes bent on survival, electronic dissent is easier to suppress than organizing methods of the past. Using a system installed last year, built in part by Nokia and Siemens, the government routes all digital traffic in the country through a single choke point, using the capabilities of deep packet inspection to monitor every e-mail, tweet, blog post, and possibly even every phone call placed in Iran. 'Compare that with East Germany, in which the Stasi managed to tap, at most, about 100,000 phone lines — a gargantuan task that required 2,000 full-time technicians to monitor the calls,' writes Manjoo. The effects of this control have been seen over the past couple days, with only a few harrowing pictures and videos getting through Iran's closed net. For most citizens, posting videos and even tweeting eyewitness accounts remains fraught with peril, and the same tools that activists use can be used by the government to spread disinformation. The government is also using crowdsourcing by posting pictures of protesters and asking citizens for help in identifying the activists. 'If you think about it, that's no surprise,' writes Manjoo. 'Who said that only the good guys get to use the power of the Web to their advantage?'"

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