Farhad Manjoo thinks the internet is helping to silence activists:
The conflicting accounts about what happened at Baharestan Square are evidence that Iran's media crackdown is working. The big story in Iran is confusionon a daily basis, there are more questions than answers about what's really happening, about who's winning and losing, about what comes next. The surprise isn't that technology has given protesters a new voice. It's that, despite all the tech, they've been effectively silenced.
The crackdown in Iran shows that, for regimes bent on survival, squashing electronic dissent isn't impossible. In many ways, modern communication tools are easier to suppress than organizing methods of the past. According to the Wall Street Journal, Iran has one of the world's most advanced surveillance networks. Using a system installed last year (and built, in part, by Nokia and Siemens), the government routes all digital traffic in the country through a single choke point. Through "deep packet inspection," the regime achieves omniscienceit has the technical capability to monitor every e-mail, tweet, blog post, and possibly even every phone call placed in Iran. Compare that with East Germany, in which the Stasi managed to tap, at most, about 100,000 phone linesa gargantuan task that required 2,000 full-time technicians to monitor the calls. The Stasi's work force comprised 100,000 officers, and estimates put its network of citizen informants at half a million. In the digital age, Iran can monitor its citizens with a far smaller security apparatus. They can listen in on everything anyone saysand shut down anything inconvenientwith the flip of a switch.
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