Using Social Media, Iranians Outwit Regime

NOTE: THIS PIECE CLEARY INDICATES THE POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA. AS MARKETERS, BE AWARE THAT CUSTOMERS HAVE AWESOME COMMUNICATIVE POWERS RIGHT NOW VIA THESE NETWORKS AND REMEMBER THE SAME OLD RULE APPLIES: MAKE SOMEONE HAPPY THEY’LL TELL ONE PERSON, MAKE SOMEONE MAD AND THEY’LL TELL PEOPLE.=DP

Using Social Media, Iranians Outwit Regime
By David Weir | June 15th, 2009 @ 7:36 pm
Apparently, there’s not going to be any actual regime change anytime soon inside Iran, but that country is undergoing a fundamental revolution nonetheless. Thanks to social media — YouTube, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and a growing list of others — the ability of any government, let alone Iran’s, to control information has been permanently compromised.

As of this hour, there are almost 12,000 videos available on YouTube under the search term, “Iranian election.” While not all of these are of the demonstrations that have erupted since the government announced that the incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had supposedly prevailed against reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, when you tweak the search terms a little, somewhere around a third of them appear to be.

Many times as many photos are available, of course, and the hyper-texting via Twitter continues unabated. The religious clerics who control the country now appear to have started to give up trying to assert control over this communications war. State-run TV is now covering some of the demonstrations, and the regime simply is not geeky enough to keep up with the young, tech-savvy crowd that is using every tool available to organize continuing demonstrations in the streets.

This is really a blunt reminder that of the power of networked geeks far outweighs the would-be censors inside that oh-so 20th Century notion of a “government.” It’s hardly the first time. Remember SARS? One of my graduate students at Stanford back when that disease was ravishing the world’s largest country (and 36 others) documented how China’s population got around that government’s attempts to suppress all news internally about the outbreak by text-messaging each other foreign news reports via cellphones.

(Ironically, she could not publish her graduate thesis because she was returning to Beijing to pursue a career in journalism, and feared she would have been arrested if she did so.)

The Iranian drama illustrates how the powerful democratization of information-control via new technologies is now taking no prisoners. The dwindling number of oppressive regimes even willing to try to censor their citizens (Hello, North Korea!) indicate that only fools would make an attempt any longer.

There still may be an awful, violent suppression of the fledgling democracy movement in Tehran over the coming days, but somehow I doubt it. The power of the few to control the many reached its peak in 1940s Germany. What’s happening in Iran tonight feels much more like when the Berlin Wall started to crumble…

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