When will dictators learn that you can’t stop info getting out?

First published in Journalism, Journalists and the World.

Repressive regimes keep trying to control media outlets from good old analog print to the Internet.

And keep failing.

The latest example is Iran.

Foreign journalists were ordered to stay inside. This, the government figured would keep any crackdown against anti-government demonstrators out of the international news. But protesters just started running their mobile phones in video mode and the word got out.

Looking to block Twitter and other Internet sites, the Iranian government even took a page out of the Chinese book on monitoring the Internet by hiring thousands of people to watch what is being said. But that still did not stop the mobile phones.

The Chinese faced a similar problem after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. The Chinese government did let in foreign journalists just after the earthquake so that the world could see how fast the government reacted to the disaster. But what the government tried to block were the subsequent demonstrations by grieving families who wanted to hold corrupt local and provincial officials accountable for the shoddy workmanship in the public schools.

Word of the demonstrations got out by mobile phone. The government tried to cut off the texting portion of the mobile network but to no avail.

Here are some reports about how technology played a role in Iran in not only helping people protest against their government but also in getting the news out.

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  • JP

    This is a dangerous misinformation. Deaf people routinely point as part of sign language, and a few have already been harrassed for “flashing gang sign.” A few deaf people have been shot by policemen who did not realize they were deaf (or ignored others’ warnings.)

    I take this kind of bigotry and disinformation very seriously.


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