U of T joins cyber campaign to keep Iranians Tweeting
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Tuesday, June 16, 2009 6:21PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, May 18, 2012 11:08PM EDT
The University of Toronto's Munk Centre for International Studies is one of many groups that have been providing software to Iranian Internet users to bypass government restrictions on web access.
The Iranian regime has ramped up efforts to stifle dissent in the wake of a controversial election result by cracking down access to text messaging and social networking websites.
But Twitter has remained operational because of proxy servers set up to bypass the government's cyber blockades.
"Iran's revolution is going to go down as our first real cyber war. Hacking, counter-hacking, spreading proxy servers," user withak53 said around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday on the #Iranelection feed.
Twitter has been flooded with reports that the government has siphoned off access websites such as, Yahoo Messenger, Facebook and YouTube.
To stay connected, supporters of defeated presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi have resorted to sending 140-character "tweets" on Twitter.com as one of their last means of communication to organize further demonstrations to boycott the results of last week's election.
The government announced Ahmadinejad had won the election last Friday with a massive majority even though opinion polls were showing Mousavi had a strong lead.
The result is being rejected by supporters of Mousavi, who say the election was rigged in Ahmadinejad's favour.
"No government that has conducted a fair election follows it with communications blackouts and a form of martial law," user HautePersian said around 11:10 a.m. Tuesday on the #Iranelection feed.
Tweeters are calling on their cohorts to reset their Twitter account's time zone and location to Tehran to make it look as thought they are Iranians.
"Change your time zone and location to Tehran. It'll help hide the protesters within Iran. Keep doing it no matter what!" urged user Twignation on feeds #tehran, #iran9 and #IranElection.
Even though initial media reports said that demonstrations against the Iranian regime were cancelled for Tuesday, Twitter users reported that thousands of Mousavi supporters took to the streets of Tehran.
Mousavi demonstrators gathered in front of the IRIB headquarters, an Iranian news agency in Tehran, user Cordwainer_Bird wrote around 10 p.m.
There have also been mixed reports on Twitter on whether or not the Iranian army is moving into Tehran to stop the protests.
Seven deaths have been confirmed since the protest erupted on Friday, but Twitter users are reporting that more than 20 people have been killed.
Still, Mousavi supporters demand a recount.
"Look at the Ahmadinejad supporters going around the streets. Nothing compared to our brothers fighting for rights," user IranianFreedom said.
On Monday, Twitter announced that it will postpone a "critical network upgrade" after many users pleaded that the website not be shut down.
"In coordination with Twitter, our network host had planned this upgrade for tonight. However, our network partners at NTT America recognize the role Twitter is currently playing as an important communication tool in Iran," Twitter co-founder Biz Stone wrote in a blog posting. "Tonight's planned maintenance has been rescheduled to tomorrow between 2 to 3 p.m. PST (1:30 a.m. in Iran)."
Because access to the Internet has been stifled, many Iranians have resorted to using "more low-tech methods" to spread their message by handing out notes, selecting individuals to scream out where the next rally will be and riding motorcycles to inform others of upcoming protests, freelance reporter George McLeod said from Tehran.
"I think the government is trying to silence the Internet but it's really not cutting the number of people in the streets," he told CTV's Canada AM Tuesday.