Internet Firewall Failure Opens Window Of Optimism For Iranians

Sep 20, 2013

Credit Brian Hardzinski / KGOU

Word of the opening of Iran's blocked social media sites was spread, of course, by social media itself: in celebratory tweets and breathless Facebook posts.

Hours later, the same sites Tuesday chewed over the sobering reality that the four-year-old firewalls were back in place.

"We've seen what social media does in other parts of the Middle East in terms of organizing protests and resistance to their governments," says Suzette Grillot, the Dean of the College of International Studies at the University of Oklahoma. "So it raises issues of censorship, but also the critical importance of social media in the public life."

Iran's Internet overseers blamed a "technical" glitch on the brief window to the Web.

"Many people got on social media and were ecstatic that this had happened,” says the College’s Assistant Dean Rebecca Cruise. “They thought this was going to be a long-term deal. The new president there has often mentioned that he will lift some of these restrictions.”

The clampdown on Iran's social media was in response to the street riots and unrest after the disputed 2009 re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose opponents were among the first in the Middle East to harness the Web to organize protests.

“This is also often called the Twitter Revolution," Cruise says. "That was really the first time where we started seeing that Twitter could have an impact. So the Iranian officials were pretty diligent in keeping Facebook and Twitter blocked."


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