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Iran protesters aided in online battle

Cyber-sympathizers from around the world have joined forces online to help Iranian protestors dodge censorship, get out news of violent clashes and avoid real-world capture following Iran’s disputed election.

南宁桑拿

Pictures, videos and updates from the streets of Iran continued to pour in to social-networking and image-sharing websites such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr despite efforts by Iranian officials to cut off mobile phones and the Internet.

“The revolution may not be televised in Iran, but it may well be tweeted,” user ‘kaplanmyrth’ said Wednesday in one of the concise messages flooding an Iran election feed at the microblogging service.

Blocks evaded with assistance

Online allies have set up Internet-linked computers called “proxy servers” that can be used by people inside Iran to get around blocks imposed to stifle the spread of news about demonstrators accusing incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of having stolen last Friday’s presidential election.

“If everybody sets up proxies that are rerouting Twitter traffic from there, unless they know what your proxies are, they can’t block them,” said Nitin Borwankar, a US technology consultant specializing in social data mining.

“It’s like a needle in a haystack, much worse than a needle and a haystack. So people are setting up a lot of proxies.”

Users ‘hidden’ in the crowd

Twitter users have been changing time and location settings to make it appear they are messaging from Tehran to make it harder for authorities to find those really tweeting from that country.

Twitter on Wednesday was abuzz with messages and links by those claiming to have dissected photos of an Ahmadinejad victory rally and found the images were doctored to make the crowd appear many times larger than it actually was.

Hackers are siding with Iranian protestors in a growing cyber-battle with government forces, according to Iranian blogger Omid Memarian.

Online allies have been sending Iranian protestors software to crack Internet filters or launch “denial of service” attacks on websites supporting Ahmadinejad’s regime, Memarian said.

“This is happening constantly,” said Memarian, who is at the University of California, Berkeley, journalism school as a Rotary Peace Fellow.

“There is an Internet fight between the two sides. People who are more techie have started to shut down conservative websites.”

Memarian read to AFP from a Revolutionary Guards press release warning against the posting of protest news, pictures or videos on the Internet.

“It shows how the Internet is playing a major role in Iran now,” Memarian said.

Internet can ‘route around damage’

It is problematic to block all satellite and telephone service across the country because doing so would cut military and police communications, according to Borwankar.

“You can block certain channels but you can’t really do a blanket blocking,” Borwankar said.

The Internet is a network with redundant and alternate pathways to assure the free flow of data, and in that structure lays opportunity for those wishing to dodge censorship.

“There’s a principle that says the Internet routes around damage; that’s how it was designed,” Borwankar said.

“It can withstand a nuclear attack. So, socially now people have created communications channels that route around damage. Censorship is viewed as damage and people find ways to get around it.”

Twitterers go green

A sea of green was spreading on Twitter in a display of solidarity, as users changed or tinted ID photographs or avatars to the campaign colour of moderate candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi.

“Show support for democracy in Iran add green overlay to your Twitter avatar,” Craigslist founder Craig Newmark said in a forwarded tweet.

The use of Web technology amid the Iran protests is being closely watched in Washington, where a State Department official asked Twitter to postpone a planned maintenance shutdown by a day to allow Iranians to speak out and organize.

“We promote the right of free expression,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters in defending the US request, adding that Twitter was a vital means to enjoying such freedoms.

“I wouldn’t know a twitter from a tweeter, but apparently it is very important,” Clinton said.

The Internet has neutered Ahmadinejad’s propaganda machine and “everyone is talking about” what is really going on in the streets of Iran, according to Memarian.

Even if Iran officials could cut off all Internet and unsanctioned television broadcasts in the country, people there are now skeptical of news being spoon fed to them by the government, Memarian said.

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