Twitter, YouTube play pivotal role in Iran

June 18, 2009 7:11:33 PM PDT
The government of Iran is trying to block access to Internet sites like YouTube and Twitter, and those Bay area based companies are playing an increasingly larger role in helping to report what's happening in Iran.

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Great masses of people filled the streets of the Iranian capital again on Thursday. As we've seen, much of the reporting is coming from the protestors themselves via cell phone cameras and the Internet.

Thursday's protests in Iran were an official day of mourning in honor of those killed in clashes with the government-backed security forces over the past week.

Videos posted on YouTube show a sea of humanity with many dressed in black and silently walking, disobeying the orders of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei, who is revoking the press credentials for foreign reporters and forcing many of them out of Tehran in an effort to squash coverage.

ABC's Jim Sciutto is one of the reporters tossed out. He's now reporting from Dubai.

At YouTube, the head of communications says videos from Iran are coming in from everywhere.

"What we're seeing is a lot of these videos are being uploaded, the same videos being uploaded from all over the world as it's shared," said Ricardo Reyes from YouTube.

But there has been a dramatic drop off in people in Iran accessing the YouTube site to watch the videos.

"Our normal traffic through Iran is down to about 10 percent of what it usually is or what it was before the elections, so we have seen a tremendous slow down in traffic. We haven't been able to verify where that is coming from, but it's definitely slowed down," said Reyes.

In Los Angeles, an Iranian television station is sending its coverage to Iranian Americans, but the signal into Iran has been disrupted.

"The last few weeks, we had problems, us and other stations we had problems. They were jamming all the transmission lines," said Bahman Fathi from Farsinet.

On Thursday Defense Secretary Robert Gates called the social networking sites like YouTube and Twitter a huge strategic asset for the United States.

"And it makes the control of communications by a government extremely difficult. Frankly, I think it's a huge win for freedom around the world because their monopoly of information is no longer in the hands of the government," said Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

As the Iranian government throws up barriers to the Internet, tech savvy Iranians have been finding detours, including using computers in the United States that have been set up as proxy servers to bypass the Iranian barricades.

Websites are springing up to show people how to temporarily volunteer their computers to the cause.

Related Links:

  • Proxy set up for Iran

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