The Iranian government has high-tech equipment that will enable it to trace thousands of activists who have encouraged the recent demonstrations and spread news about them by using Twitter, cell phones and other Web-based social networks.
Cellphones and text messaging are widely believed to have played a crucial role in fostering the Orange Revolution in Ukraine (or at least, making the protests as widespread and successful as they were); the Berkman Center at Harvard published probably the most comprehensive study of the role that social media played in the Orange Revolution (even though I criticized some of its cyber-utopian assumptions in a recent essay for Boston Review).
The social networking service Twitter has so far failed to attract large numbers of Syrian Internet users as it did in other Arab countries. In an interview conducted via email, a Syrian blogger and activist said that the Syrian online community has not yet realised Twitter’s potential as a tool that could help them publicise their causes.
Aided by social networking tools like Twitter, LiveJournal and Facebook, demonstrators in the former-Soviet republic of Moldova are gearing for another round of protests. Just yesterday, activists seized the president’s office and the country’s parliament — only to have the government take the buildings back. More crowds, however, are converging on the main square. And they are Tweeting, posting, and uploading.
As the embattled government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appears to be trying to limit Internet access and communications in Iran, new kinds of social media are challenging those traditional levers of state media control and allowing Iranians to find novel ways around the restrictions.
The crisis in Moldova, dubbed the "Twitter Revolution", was last night threatening to turn into another showdown between Russia and the West. Just weeks after Barack Obama's government spoke of "pressing the reset button" with Russia, the conflict risks derailing the fragile diplomatic truce.
The application of new communication tools for digital activism was specifically addressed at the conference on the social web and networked political protests. Andreas Jungherr focused on Twitter while Christina Newmayer and Celine Roff shared their findings on the use of Facebook for digital activism. I hope the presenters will agree to post a summary of their research on DigiActive.