Facebook ban lifted: “the only place where we can talk about politics”

Image sent to us by "Behanm".

No wonder the authorities wanted Facebook banned. But Iranian Facebook users are heaving a sigh of relief today after access to the site was reopened on Tusday morning. So what was all the fuss about? One of our Observers in Tehran explains the election debates raging on the online social network and why President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad probably isn't a big fan.

Although Ahmadinejad denies having ordered the shutdown, the reformist-leaning Iranian news agency Ilna, whose site was inaccessible at the time of publication, said that government representatives orchestrated the censorship.

Iran, which has a population of more 70 million, has a strong online community with around 21 million Internet users. Pro-reform candidates for June's presidential election are seen as following in Barack Obama's footsteps by using the Internet as much as possible in campaigning.

And it seems to be working. Many Iranians Web users see the recent ban as a direct attempt at closing down one of reformist candidate Mirhossein Mousavi's platforms. While Mousavi has more than 8,000 supporters on his Facebook profile, Ahmadinejad doesn't even have an account. There is however, a group entitled "I bet I can find 1,000,000 people who dislike Mahmoud Ahmadinejad", which already has 45,000 members.

This post was compiled with help from one of our Observers for Iran, Omid Habibinia.

Contributors

“The Iranian Facebook community has been divided into two main groups - blues and greens”


Picture by "Samar".

Shohreh, pictured, is a 23-year-old art student from Tehran. She tells us about election developments on Facebook:

I usually start my day with Facebook and spend about 18 hours a day online. When I went to log on on Saturday morning however, I found instead a message saying that Facebook had been censored. I was pretty upset, but we knew it would happen sooner or later. Facebook has become really popular in the run-up to the election because it's the only place where we can talk about politics with each other. Everything else is strictly censored.

The "Access denied" message which appeared on Saturday:


Image sent by "Behanm".

Since last month the Iranian Facebook community has been divided into two main groups. It started when supporters of reformist leader Mirhossein Mousavi coloured their profile pictures green in support for him. In response, those supporting a boycott of the election coloured theirs blue. The reformists blame the boycotters for Ahmadinejad's victory in the last election (around 41% of people refused to participate in the second round); while the boycotters detest the reformists because they say that by voting for anybody, you are supporting the Islamic Republic. The movement ended in many online friends being removed from lists.

Screenshot of Iranian profiles coloured depending on political preference:

Sent by Omid Habibinia.

More outrage was caused when pro-Mousavi supporters used a popular radical leftist's song in this video clip they posted on YouTube. The song comes from leftist group the Fedaii Guerrillas, who fought against the Shah's regime. Now Mousavi himself is accused of being one of the main perpetrators in suppressing the far-left opposition in the 1980s, so by using this song the Mousavi supporters caused a great deal of anger on Facebook.

The clip in question:


Posted on YouTube by "msaeedi56".

 

There also two other groups: supporters of Mehdi Karroubi (another reformist), who colour themselves white, and Ahmadinejad supporters, who colour themselves red. There seem to be lots of both blue and green profiles, not many Karroubi supporters and even fewer reds. Personally, I'm not sure yet whether I'll boycott the election like last term or vote for a reformist. For now I'm just happy to be able to follow the debate on Facebook.

Comments

Sansür = Cencor

Thanks for all. I bookmarks this page. http://blog.virgullu.com

Facebook and Possible Misuse by IR Iran's Intelligence Ministry

During recent weeks many Political Activists have been concerned about the possible misuse of FB by Intelligence Ministry in Iran, Please read my piece about it, here:
http://www.worldpress.org/Mideast/3310.cfm

Social network campaigning in Mexico

On July 5th Mexico will have mid-term elections and many of the candidates have decided to try the Obama strategy to attract voters on Youtube and Facebook, or simply do negative campaign, which the new electoral law doesn't allowed to be broadcast on conventional media: TV and Radio.

The new electoral law was approved by the Congress in 2007, after the controversial 2006 presidential election that led to a post-election crises that divided politically the Mexican society. Due to this, many of the rules for doing politcal campaign changed. One of those is that negative campaigning are banned and the political party aren't allowed to hire airing time in the media for it's propaganda,this will be done during the state airing time, which is free and the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) is in charge to distribute the propaganda to the media and established the airing time to be broadcast. This made the two main private Television chain rage, cause during election time they made million of pesos just for political propaganda. So, to discredit the new electoral law, they argued that this changes made attempts freedom of speech. As incredible that it seems, this made many legislatures retract by saying that they really mess it up by approving this law.

Now on campaign the parties are violating the electoral law and uploading on Youtube propaganda attacking its political contendors and the Federal Electoral Institute wants Internet to be regulated as well, so they could sanction the political parties doing negative campaign; which is non-viable. And besides, doing social network campaigning doesn't have a really big impact to the voters, considering that just 22.3 million people use and have access to Internet of a country of more then a 100 million inhabitants. And those who use Internet in their daily lives are mostly teens, which can't vote and young educated adults which aren't easily hooked by this type of propaganda.

Gabriel Infante
Degree in Broadcasting Comunication and Journalism

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