Iran, Twitter and information control

Ahmadinejad protesters in Ebisu, Tokyo

We’ve now had just over a decade of truly mainstream access to and use of the internet. I think I personally took my first stumbling steps on the web around 1995-1996. At the time, it was a limited phenomenon, rife with poor design. It was hard to see what was eventually going to come out of that. And even today, it’s hard to see what today’s internet will eventually evolve into.

If it wasn’t clear before, the events of the past week have made it clear that the internet is a valuable tool for democracy. When everybody can broadcast to everybody else, as opposed to just a select few broadcasting, it’s difficult to control the information flow. Repressing select bits of information becomes hard – the repression just results in the information getting more attention. In the aftermath of Iran’s elections, it seems one of the most important communication channels for protesters was Twitter.  The situation is being likened to Tiananmen square. Together with everybody else, I could follow #IranElection as the events unfolded. It went to the point where the US State Department asked Twitter to delay upgrades in order to keep the service operative, supposedly because of Twitter’s importance in Iran.

I don’t know enough about the candidates to take sides in Iran, but I think one of our fundamental principles should be that nobody should seek to rule by repressing communication. Today, the Internet is a free communications device that anyone can use. How long will it stay this way? When legislators seek to clamp down on the Internet’s uncontrolled nature and regulate it for one reason or another, we should protest. Unrestricted mass communication for everyone is too important an invention to give up.

For those who read Swedish, Rasmus Fleischer has written a brilliant post on the events from a philosophical-historical perspective.

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