Iran, democracy and social media

Time magazine is reporting that the Iranian government will be shutting down Internet access on Monday December 6th 2009.  Foreign media have also been warned to stay off the streets and stay in their offices until Thursday.

So, by the time Canadian Techvibes readers have a chance to read this post, and others like it, our online brothers and sisters in Iran will have been silenced.  And not by choice. But by state intervention.

The reason:  Student groups and protesters have planned massive demonstrations for Monday. 

As you may know, Iran’s powerful clerical elite control the country’s political, economic and social systems.  Since this past summer’s elections, hundreds upon thousands of protesters (mainly student groups) have gone to the streets, the airwaves and the internet to voice their displeasure with the current regime.  The internet (along with mass street protests) have been the students main “weapon”.  In fact, what we know about the demonstrations has largely been as a result of what we’ve learned from various social media outlets.

And the establishment in Iran does not like this.  In fact, former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a voice of dissent within the established leadership, has been quoted as saying, “The situation in the country is such that constructive criticism is not tolerated.” 

How will this all play out?  What access will protest organizers have to the internet?  Will mobile devices be operable?  Will the rest of the world be able to watch, listen and hear the pro-democracy demonstrations in Iran?  The answer to this question is hours away. 

However, what is known is the social importance and implications of social media and the internet as a whole.  Sites such as YouTube, Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, and countless blogs and other websites have documented the fight for democracy and social change in Iran.  And the ability of social media to tell their story has given the demonstrators hope that the rest of the world will listen. 

And, hopefully, act.