Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Oh Joy! Now You Can Follow Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei On Twitter!

NIAC, the National Iranian American Council notes that Khamenei is now following you on Twitter, an idea that is unlikely to thrill the majority of Iranians:
Everyone in Qom, get out your cell phones and cameras, because the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei wants you to send him your videos and pictures of him when he visits today so that he can post them on his website.
Ironic that Khamenei is suddenly a champion of citizen journalism, considering that he and his government were attacking and silencing Iranians who tweeted, blogged, took videos, and emailed pictures during the 2009 election aftermath.
But a major PR blitz is underway as Ayatollah Khamenei ventures to Qom today, his 3rd official visit to Qom since his appointment as Supreme Leader in 1989, including the calls for Iranians to get involved through social media, and a campaign to paint people’s cars and vehicles calling Khamenei an Imam.
How can Khamenei promote social media when, at the same time he has a cyber police task force, stomping on people’s doorsteps anytime someone sends an email to their cousin in America insulting the Iranian government? This is the same government that worked to permanently suspend Gmail, filters the internet, and recently began blocking the web page of its former President. But now the Supreme Leader tweets.
Apparently, the Iranian regime is taking its war against cyberspace to the next level as Iran is now witnessing Iranian Social Networking, Hard-Line Style:
The Iranian establishment has for years fought a cyber-battle on several fronts. It has reportedly blocked and hacked websites, tracked activists online, and threatened Iranians who have turned to blogs and other online platforms to express themselves. It has prosecuted and jailed some people based on their online content.

But the Iranian establishment has faced fierce and determined opposition by activists and intellectuals, who have used proxy sites and antifiltering tools to bypass government censorship.

One web developer in Tehran, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear for his safety, says activists seem to be winning the cyber-battle. "The government blocks [and] young citizens find a way to unblock the filtered website," he says. "They manage to spread the news the government wants to censor."
According to the NIAC article, Khamenei appears to be reacting to criticism from other clerics who have expressed the opinion that he is going beyond the limits of his position:
According to Dastgheib, Khamenei’s role is “to coordinate the efforts of the three branches of government and to prevent the violation of citizens’ rights by the three branches.”
In response to sanctions and upcoming talks with the P5+1 countries in November, Khamenei may be looking for ways to unite the clerics with him against western influences--while at the same time using those "western" social media tools that are condemned when used to protest for human rights.
Khamenei has said that “the media is more powerful and dangerous than nuclear weapons.” By getting into social media, it seems what he is trying to do is, “keep your friends close, but your enemies even closer.”
And maybe even 'friend' them.

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