Unshackling the golden handcuffs : finding freedom in liberation technologies in Iran
On June 20, 2009, during what would come to be known as the “Green Revolution,” a young philosophy student, Neda Agha-Soltan, was shot dead while protesting the outcome of the recent presidential election in Iran. Alleged to have been committed by a member of the Basij, a paramilitary force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Neda’s death sparked an immediate reaction; videos of her death spread across the Internet, and by the end of the day, #neda was trending on Twitter.1 Video hosting websites like Youtube that normally censored violent or otherwise “inappropriate” content temporarily relaxed these restrictions to allow the videos to become a digital rallying cry for the Revolution. As international media broadly reported the incident, “Neda’s death and the distressing images of wanton brutality decimated the remaining legitimacy of the Islamic Republic domestically and internationally.”2
Liberation technology, defined as “any form of information and communication technology that can expand political, social, and economic freedom,”3 played a critical role in the Green Revolution, specifically in galvanising public outrage over the results of an election that many Iranians perceived to be fraudulent. Tools like Twitter enabled geographically dispersed activists to connect with members of the Iranian diaspora, to evade the authorities while organising politically, and to publicise human rights abuses being committed by the regime against protestors. Ultimately, however, the Green Revolution was crushed, its leaders silenced, and its supporters suppressed.
In light of this defeat and the continued repression of democratic expression and liberal social movements in Iran today, what has the success been of liberation technologies in generating positive social change?
In analysing the emergence and development of liberation technologies in Iran, I argue that while tools like social media have enabled human rights activists to expand the digital space for civic engagement and debate, these tools have not yet generated substantive, tangible improvement in Iranians’ ability to exercise human rights or democratic expression. Liberation technologies in Iran remain a “golden handcuff,” at once liberating and constraining; the IRGC demonstrates a remarkable commitment to learning, and capacity to employ, so-called liberation technologies to further restrict freedoms and suppress democratic movements. If liberation technologies are to be successfully leveraged in Iran to realise human rights, it will be necessary for the international community to build the capacity of activists to successfully organise, and to innovate tools that ensure the safety of these activists in doing so.
The Emergence of “Liberation Technology”: The Iranian Blogosphere
Bruce Schneier writes that in the “epic battle for power in cyberspace…traditional, organised, institutional powers such as governments and large multinational corporations” face off against “the distributed and nimble: grassroots movements, dissident groups, hackers, and criminals.”4 Although initially a tool of empowerment for the masses, he argues that “the more traditional institutional powers are winning, and winning big.”5 Yet this was not always the case.
Partially as a result of high literacy, Internet usage was both popular and common in Iran in the early days of the dot-com era.6 A liberalisation of the media in the late 1990s, under President Mohammad Khatami, prompted an explosion of online news and journalism, including a Persian-language blogosphere. Indeed, Persian is one of the most widely-spoken languages on the Internet; despite being the world’s 19th largest population, the “Iranian blogosphere,” as measured by the number of Persian-language blogs, is third largest behind the United States and China.7
As crackdowns on Iranian media increased after 2000, the Iranian blogosphere assumed added importance, as it became a key source of news for political news.8 Hossein Derakhshan, an Iranian-Canadian blogger, widely considered the “Blogfather” of Iran,9 is purported to have started the first Persian-language blog, catalysing Iran’s “blogging revolution” by creating a “how-to” guide for starting a blog.10 This prompted an explosion of new blogs—by some estimates, more than 64,000.11 Because of internal restrictions on media freedom, blogs became a means of supplying “man on the street” accounts of life inside the country, eyewitness accounts untainted by Iranian regime propaganda.12 Bloggers like Derakhshan thus found themselves in a position of great power; his blog, and others like him, which published scathing criticisms of the regime, were widely-read and increasingly influential.13
Moreover, because blogs were mostly anonymous and some writers—like Derakhshan—were based outside of the country, this afforded a certain freedom to present alternative narratives to counter official politics. It also hindered the regime’s ability to identify and punish dissenters. In this way, the Iranian blogosphere served as the frontline in the struggle between democracy and human rights activists, the regime, and the outside world. Blogging opened up, for the first time, a space for civic engagement and critical discourse.
Nonetheless, supply-side state co-option of the Internet was to a large degree successful in limiting Iranians’ ability to access blogging platforms; the regime’s “technical blocking, filtering, takedowns, monitoring, induced self-censorship, and search result removal”14 both hampered content access and increased the danger in doing so. Indeed, digital activism did not come without grave cost.
With the ascent of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the Presidency in 2005 came new and more brutal restrictions on Iranian digital life. Ahmadinejad reversed many of the liberalisation tactics of his predecessor; under his regime, the IRGC took control of mass media, with the state assuming operation of all television and radio channels in the country.15 “Red lines” for reporting were established, and censorship and shutdown were common for those who violated the regulations.16 Ahmadinejad also sought to heavily restrict Internet access, largely succeeding by tracking down and arresting blogger-activists like Derakhshan, on charges as varied as “blasphemy, obscenity and seditious propaganda.”17 Derakhshan and other prominent bloggers were routinely imprisoned throughout the early 2000s; blogger Mojtaba Samineja, detained in 2004 and again in 2005, was found guilty of insulting Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, ultimately serving 21 months in prison.18
Most critical to the regime’s ability to do so was the expansion of their online presence. Although Ahmadinejad briefly flirted with a total shutdown of social media—even going so far as to make Facebook illegal in 2006,19 his regime’s most successful tactic proved to be actively encouraging “the Basijis” to go digital.20 For example, in 2007, the IRGC established a “Centre for Investigating Organised Cyber Crimes” in order to “investigate and confront social and economic offences on the internet.”21
The Basij became a central player in the Iranian regime’s attempt to control the Internet; in addition to controlling access by means of nationalising ownership of Internet providers, Basijis’ ability to learn and employ similar tools and tactics as those they sought to censor was a critical element of the IRGC’s success in constructing “firewalls against freedom.”22 In conjunction with the rise and increased popularity of platforms like Facebook, the Centre took on added importance over the course of the 2009 protests, as the regime sought to combat online momentum for the opposition movement.23
Web 2.0: Liberation Technology and Social Media Use in the Green Revolution
Following the creation of the Internet and the proliferation of the Iranian blogosphere, a series of newer, more “interactive and participatory technologies”24 emerged, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. These technologies quickly gained popularity for everyday exchange among Iranians of varying backgrounds and political leanings.25 Though introduced prior to 2009, these platforms gained particular prominence in the months leading up to, during, and following the Green Revolution in June of that year. Twitter reported that #iranelection was the top trending topic of 2009,26 signalling a clear victory of the Green Revolution’s efforts to politically awaken and mobilise the masses via the popular social media platform. Indeed, “even more celebrated than Weblogistan, the term “social media” became the newest signifier of the liberatory potential of digital media….seem[ing] poised to surpass expectations.”27
However, having learned from its previous mistakes, the Iranian government sought to preempt public dissent by taking preventative measures to control social media use in the run-up to the presidential election. In April 2009, the Majles (Parliament) mandated that all candidates must register their blogs and Internet sites with the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance,28 so as to ensure their appropriateness and provide a mechanism for state monitoring.
While Facebook had been momentarily legalised in February 2009, the regime banned it again in the run-up to the election.29 The Iranian government oscillated in its approach to the social networking site; its initial reversal of the Facebook ban can be understood as a tactic to “bolster [its] image as legitimate and progressive,” and to simultaneously co-opt it as a tool for monitoring opponents and for spreading regime propaganda.30 Regardless, the regime decided to not take any chances, cutting off mobile phone service and texting in advance of the polls opening on June 12.31
The IRGC also intensified its efforts by offering courses “on weblog writing for Basiji members, especially women and students, and encouraged them to publish material supporting the regime.”32 By some accounts, more than 10,000 blogs were created as a result of this effort.33 The Centre for Investigating Organised Cyber Crimes’ activities were likewise expanded; individual “cyber councils” were established in disparate provinces across Iran,34 and in the months leading up to the presidential election in June 2009, the regime began “establishing Internet cafés in Basij bases,”35 providing Internet access for Basij members, their families and also religious families.36
The regime’s approach to the tools of “Web 2.0,” namely, Facebook and Twitter, reflects state authorities’ cognisance of the importance of these tools, and a waning ability to control them. The inherent flexibility of social media—both how it is accessed and the platforms themselves—presented a unique challenge to the Iranian regime in a way that the Internet and blogosphere had not. With Internet users averaging 7.6 social media accounts each,37 understanding which platforms represent a threat to the regime requires significant state resources and continuous monitoring.
Indeed, despite regime attempts to constrain them, new forms of social media tools in some respects proved more versatile than “traditional” liberation technologies had been, surpassing the blogosphere in their ability to galvanise political action and circumvent regime censorship. The candidate opposing incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hossein Mousavi, used social media to advance his campaign. His movement harnessed both new and old platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, text messaging, and blogs, to quickly organise and to disseminate political manifestos.38 These tools were not only key to “circumvent[ing] government censorship and secur[ing] broad support from divergent, often conflicting, strata within the Iranian populace,”39 but in disseminating messaging to and garnering support among the Iranian diaspora. Post-election, users Persiankiwi and Mousavi1388 gained prominence on Twitter as trusted inside sources of information; news outlets, including the New York Times routinely relied on these users’ eye-witness accounts for their own political reporting and analysis.40
Similarly, opposition activists’ employment of related technologies, especially proxy servers and virtual private networks (VPNs), further enabled them to evade regime attempts to locate them. These “digital safe houses”41 were a key element of Mousavi supporters’ anonymity leading up to and during the election; free software like Tor increased the difficulty with which the regime intercepted transmissions by “redirecting encrypted traffic through multiple relays . . . around the world.”42 Nonetheless, the speed with which the opposition acquired and employed new technologies did not outpace the Iranian regime’s identification and attempts to censor them. For example, in late June, an end to Persiankiwi’s Twitter reporting led to speculation—both inside Iran and internationally—that the regime had arrested him/her.43
Moreover, hasty state support “and misguided attempts to use ICTs in the service of democratic change” sometimes resulted in compromising activists’ digital anonymity.44 For example, Haystack, a US-designed program to bypass Iranian state censorship was eventually found to be “seriously flawed,” enabling authorities to identify users with greater, not less, ease.45 Such programs demonstrate the dangerous allure of so-called liberation technologies; while they indeed carry the potential for democratic empowerment and realisation of rights, designs that guarantee anonymity are critical to their use for noble, rather than nefarious, purposes.46
Post-2009: Human Rights Progress?
Journalism professor Christian Christensen asserts that although “a number of studies have emerged examining the role of Twitter (and other social media) in Iran…these studies have…been restricted to descriptions of use volume and patterns of Twitter, or broad reflections, rather than deeper analyses of the effect of social media use in Iran.”47 Nonetheless, such deeper analysis is critical in understanding the extent to which liberation technology has served its ultimate purpose: expanding political, social, and economic freedom.
Since the Green Revolution protests in 2009, social media use has mushroomed in Iran, in large part due to the growth of Internet connections in the country.48 The Centre for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) notes that one important difference “between now and [then] is that almost the whole nation is…plugged online.”49 Indeed, “election campaigns are increasingly waged [online, and] social media networks serve as major platforms for Iranians to discuss political, social and cultural issues.50
However, despite the emergence of new platforms, such as the popular Telegram, an encrypted messaging application, human rights and democratic expression continue to be widely suppressed. In March 2018, the Iranian government reaffirmed its commitment to combatting the perceived malign influence of “the enemy,”51 broadly understood as any individual or entity opposing the Islamic Republic and IRGC political dominance. This has led to fears among the Iranian populace, particularly those who use technology as a means for civic discourse and political organisation, that the government will attempt to block Telegram, in addition to newly filter platforms like Youtube and Facebook.52 Additionally, the regime successfully employs tactics like phishing and malware to trap activists, as well as creating fake platforms (i.e., “Farsi Telegram”) to intercept messages and monitor activists.53
To date, the development of Iran’s National Internet Network (NIN) has dealt the most significant blow to would-be rights activists and regime opponents. Ironically, while President Rouhani is lauded by many in the international community for his comparatively “moderate” approach to politics, his administration has overseen the advancement of the NIN, as a result of which “Iranians are being subjected to an increasingly sophisticated system of online control, censorship and surveillance.”54 State approval is necessary in order to freely access information; the regime now both filters content and acts as official arbiter between Iranians and the outside world. Under such restrictions, tangible advancements in human rights or democratic expression as a result of “liberation technologies” are limited.
One reason for what some scholars perceive as a rise in restrictions of digital freedoms post-2009 is the increasing economic pressure on the regime; “constant threats of war and additional embargoes have created anxiety”55 within the ruling establishment, thereby prompting an attempt to stifle dissent as a means of maintaining social order. That is, “the downward spiral of Iran’s economy” cannot be understood in isolation from growing restrictions on Internet freedom and digital life—and thus, Iranians’ exercise of rights and democratic expression. If this theory proves valid, United States President Donald Trump’s efforts to invoke additional sanctions against Iran will disproportionately hurt those who seek to use technology as a vehicle for democratic expression. Economic pressure engenders social and political pressure, thereby incentivising the regime to act more authoritarian, not less.
Thus, it is realistic to expect that in the years to come, the Iranian regime will invest increasing resources in developing the technological tools to further consolidate political control and repress citizens’ freedoms. Indeed, this already seems to be occurring; in January 2017, around 80 Telegram channels were shut down and their managers arrested, on the basis of “spreading lies, disturbing public order, creating fear and promoting immoral and anti-cultural material.”56 This indicates that the Iranian regime remains determined in its efforts to identify and remove citizen threats to its power, including digital ones.
What has become clear in the years since 2009 is that the Iranian regime is not complacent; as Iranians acquire and use new forms of technology, the regime is simultaneously mastering them and evolving in their own technological capabilities. Indeed, mastery of these tools is a key means by which the government not only seeks to suppress dissent, but to enhance its own legitimacy, both domestically and internationally. New authoritarian practices now include online and social media presences; in his Twitter profile, former President Ahmadinejad describes himself as a “husband, Dad, Grandfather, University Professor, President, Mayor, [and] Proud Iranian.”57 President Rouhani joined Twitter in 2013 and even the Grand Ayatollah Khamenei maintains an active feed. All three count followers in the hundreds of thousands, and Rouhani routinely uses his Twitter to communicate his political successes to his domestic constituency.58
These politicians demonstrate a mastery of social media; indeed, the Iranian politicians of today are not those of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but rather, a more versatile, digitally savvy cohort capable of using and abusing social media tools to advance their own agendas. Ironically, it is in the very same tools the regime often seeks to restrict or eliminate that politicians find an opportunity to spread state propaganda. In establishing Internet strongholds, Iranian state actors and institutions have successfully co-opted opposition campaigns and discourses.59 They have also been able to support and propagate official narratives about Iran’s history and contemporary realities” through a domination of “online audiovisual content.”60 These efforts demonstrate the allure of technology for even the most ardent regime loyalists; while the IRGC seeks to limit Iranians’ access to technology, they themselves employ it as a “soft power” tool to project a positive (even moderate) image internationally. In this, the regime has thus far, been largely successful.
Iran is more politically and economically integrated now than at any point since the Iranian Revolution in 1979, and many world leaders actively negotiate with Tehran—as evidenced by French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit in February 2018 to discuss the nuclear deal. In short, Iran’s assault on soft power, through a co-option of the very tools and platforms it seeks to censor at home, has resulted in its relatively increased international bargaining power—and political legitimacy.
Despite the regime’s attempts to restrict digital freedoms, Iranians continue to employ technology in both everyday life and for political purposes; it is estimated that 6 out or 10 Iranians use Telegram.61 The application was credited with enabling citizens to organise and share information during recent protests in late 2017 and early 2018, the largest since the Green Revolution.62 The use of “backdoor software,” like VPNs, continues to play an important role in enabling Iranians—both with and without Telegram—to circumvent censorship. Nonetheless, tangible progress is lacking in terms of technology’s role in generating human rights improvements and expanding freedoms for Iranians. Though arguably the space for civic discourse has been expanded through the promulgation of technologies like social media, these spaces are temporary, and thus far, activists have been unable to translate digital organisation into political organisation with positive and lasting implications for human rights and democratic expression. Liberation technologies’ failure to galvanise political organisation beyond the digital realm is only partially due to activists’ weak capacity to organise politically.
The Iranian regime’s relatively greater capacity to leverage military force and state violence to suppress such organisation is another key component of the limited progress made vis-à-vis human rights in the country.
Nonetheless, in seeking to be a member of the global economy, the Iranian government is somewhat constrained—because it seeks to co-opt and exploit “liberation technologies” for its own purposes, total censorship is neither practical not entirely realistic. For example, many Iranian companies depend on Telegram for doing business; a shutdown of the application would thus carry negative economic consequences.63 Indeed, it is within this very constraint that an opportunity for activists and their supporters alike, lies.
Those in Iran who seek to leverage technology as a means of “liberation” for human rights and democratic movements must learn to move beyond simple political organisation like protests. They must exploit these technologies, and in particular, tools like VPNs, to politically strategise, so as to generate tangible change on the ground. Political organisation without strategy will doom Telegram and its contemporaries to the same fate as weblogs—obsolescence and unrealised potential.
At the same time, it is important that activists’ supporters outside of Iran work to ensure safer and more reliable Internet connectivity for Iranians. While access to information is key, what is done with this information is of even greater importance. If the international community is to take its human rights obligations and rhetoric seriously, it must consider the necessity of funding tools and initiatives to build the capacity of, digital activists in Iran to digitally strategise and affect political change. While some efforts in this regard have already been undertaken, support should focus on enabling these activists to maintain a digital “edge” vis-à-vis the regime, both in terms of the sophistication of their technological knowledge, and their exploitation of the technologies themselves.
While “liberation technology enables citizens to report news, expose wrongdoing, express opinions, mobilise protest, monitor elections, scrutinise government, deepen participation, and expand the horizons of freedom,”64 the Iranian regime has demonstrated a parallel capacity to exploit these technologies. As a result, autocrats and those who oppose them “now compete to master these technologies.”65
Despite its role in galvanising support for the Green Revolution, “digital technology could not stop bullets and clubs in 2009, and it has not prevented the rape, torture, and execution of many protestors” since,66 as the Iranian regime quickly recognised the threat technology presented and worked to shut down Twitter and Facebook. As Internet access in Iran is largely mediated through a state-owned provider, activists’ inability to access these tools dealt a significant blow to their efforts to organise. Since the unrest of the Green Revolution almost a decade ago, the IRGC has become even more savvy. Today, so-called liberation technologies in Iran are a double-edged sword, carrying both great potential and great risk.
Though the scales are tipped slightly in favour of the Iranian regime today, liberation technology does not have to continue to be a sort of “golden handcuffs” for human rights and democracy activists. With concerted efforts by activists and their powerful international supporters, it is possible to realise tangible (if incremental) progress in human rights in Iran. To be sure, technology will continue to play an important role in the battle for Iranian cyberspace, but with an astute shift in the way in which activists currently employ technology—from simple organisation to more complex strategising—Iranians can transcend the digital world to generate change in the real one.
Akhavan, Niki. Electronic Iran: The Cultural Politics of an Online Evolution. London: Rutgers University Press, 2013. doi:10.2307/j.ctt5hjfz9.
Al-Jazeera. “Hossein Derakhshan: How social media kills open web.” Al-Jazeera, April 16, 2017. https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/listeningpost/2017/04/hossein-derakhshan-social-media-kills-open-web-170415112135200.html.
Associated Press, “Iranian government blocks Facebook access,” The Guardian, May 24, 2009, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/may/24/facebook-banned-iran.
BBC News. “Iran releases 'Blogfather' Hossein Derakhshan.” BBC News, November 20, 2014. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-30136003.
Bunz, Mercedes. “Twitter reveals its top trends of 2009.” The Guardian, December 16, 2009. https://www.theguardian.com/media/pda/2009/dec/16/twitter-trending-topics-2009.
CNN. “'Neda' becomes rallying cry for Iranian protests.” CNN News, June 22, 2009. http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/06/21/iran.woman.twitter/.
CBC News. “Social media plays 'extremely important' role in Iranian protests despite censorship.” CBC News, January 4, 2018. http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/iran-protests-social-media-telegram-1.4471226.
Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI). “Official Suggests Iran May Soon Block Access to Widely Used Telegram Messaging App.” Accessed April 1, 2018. https://www.iranhumanrights.org/2018/03/official-suggests-iran-may-soon-block-access-to-widely-used-telegram-messaging-app/.
Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI). “Report: Guards at the Gate: The Expanding State Control Over the Internet in Iran.” Report (January 2018). Downloaded April 1, 2018. https://www.iranhumanrights.org/wp-content/uploads/EN-Guards-at-the-gate-High-quality.pdf?x96855.
Christensen, Christian. “Discourses of Technology and Liberation: State Aid to Net Activists in an Era of “Twitter Revolutions.” The Communication Review 14, no. 3 (2011): 233-253.
Christensen, Christian. “Iran: networked dissent.” Le Monde Diplomatique, July 1, 2009. https://mondediplo.com/outsidein/iran-networked-dissent.
Derakhshan, Hossein. “The Web We Have to Save.” Medium, July 14, 2015. https://medium.com/matter/the-web-we-have-to-save-2eb1fe15a426.
Diamond, Larry. “Liberation Technology.” Journal of Democracy 21, no. 3 (July 2010): 69-83.
Drezner, Daniel W. and Henry Farrell. “Web of Influence.” Foreign Policy no. 145 (November/December 2004): 32-40.
Elson, Sara Beth, Douglas Yeung, Parisa Roshan, S. R. Bohandy and Alireza Nader. “Chapter Three: Background on Social Media Use in Iran and Events Surrounding the 2009 Election.” In Using Social Media to Gauge Iranian Public Opinion and Mood After the 2009 Election. Edited by Sara Beth Elson, Douglas Yeung, Parisa Roshan, S. R. Bohandy and Alireza Nader, 11-20. Santa Monica, California: RAND Corporation, 2012.
Etehad, Melissa. “Telegram was the app where Iranians talked politics. Then the government caught on.” Los Angeles Times, March 13, 2017. http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-telegram-iran-20170313-story.html.
Etling, Bruce, Robert Faris, and John Palfrey. “Political Change in the Digital Age: The Fragility and Promise of Online Organizing.” SAIS Review of International Affairs 30, no. 2 (Summer-Fall 2010): 37-49.
Ensha, Azadeh and Robert Mackey. “Interview With an Iranian Blogger.” New York Times, October 14, 2009. https://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/14/interview-with-an-iranian-blogger/.
Golkar, Saeid. “Liberation or Suppression Technologies? The Internet, the
Green Movement and the Regime in Iran.” International Journal of Emerging Technologies and Society 9, no. 1 (2011): 50 – 70.
Hassan Rouhani. “Had sucessful talks with PM @NarendraModi today about #ChabaharPort and railroad related industries. India and Iran are cooperating in the crucial areas of transit and energy and will further extend and develop their collaboration.” Twitter, February 17, 2018. https://twitter.com/hassanrouhani/status/964902487173066752.
Jafari, Hamed. “6 in 10 Iranians Are a Telegram Member.” Tech Rasa, September 19, 2017. http://techrasa.com/2017/09/19/6-10-iranians-telegram-member/.
Joyce, Mary. “Liberation Technology and Digital Activism.” Meta Activism, August 13, 2010. http://www.meta-activism.org/liberation-technology/.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “Husband, Dad, Grandfather, University Professor, President, Mayor, Proud Iranian.” Twitter, January 2017. https://twitter.com/Ahmadinejad1956.
Nam, Taewoo. “A tool for liberty or oppression? A cross-national study of the Internet’s influence on democracy.” Telematics and Informatics 34 (2017): 538–549.
Schneier, Bruce. “The Battle for Power on the Internet.” The Atlantic, October 24, 2014. https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/10/the-battle-for-power-on-the-internet/280824/.
Semati, Mehdi. Media, Culture and Society in Iran: Living with Globalization and the Islamic State. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2007. 304 pages.
Smith, Kit. “Marketing: 110 Amazing Social Media Statistics and Facts.” Brandwatch Blog, April 2, 2018. https://www.brandwatch.com/blog/96-amazing-social-media-statistics-and-facts/.
1 CNN, “'Neda' becomes rallying cry for Iranian protests,” CNN News, June 22, 2009, http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/06/21/iran.woman.twitter/.
2 Larry Diamond, “Liberation Technology,” Journal of Democracy 21, no. 3 (July 2010): 80.
3 Mary Joyce, “Liberation Technology and Digital Activism,” Meta Activism, August 13, 2010, http://www.meta-activism.org/liberation-technology/.
4 Bruce Schneier, “The Battle for Power on the Internet,” The Atlantic, October 24, 2014, https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/10/the-battle-for-power-on-the-internet/280824/.
6 Sara Beth Elson, Douglas Yeung, Parisa Roshan, S. R. Bohandy and Alireza Nader, “Chapter Three: Background on Social Media Use in Iran and Events Surrounding the 2009 Election,” in Using Social Media to Gauge Iranian Public Opinion and Mood After the 2009 Election, eds., Sara Beth Elson, Douglas Yeung, Parisa Roshan, S. R. Bohandy and Alireza Nader. Santa Monica, California: RAND Corporation, 2012: 11.
7 Ibid, 12.
9 BBC News, 2014
10 Hossein Derakhshan, “The Web We Have to Save,” Medium, July 14, 2015, https://medium.com/matter/the-web-we-have-to-save-2eb1fe15a426.
11 Mehdi Semati, Media, Culture and Society in Iran: Living with Globalization and the Islamic State (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2007): 268.
12 Daniel W. Drezner and Henry Farrell, “Web of Influence,” Foreign Policy no. 145 (November/December 2004): 34.
13 Al-Jazeera, “Hossein Derakhshan: How social media kills open web,” Al-Jazeera, April 16, 2017, https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/listeningpost/2017/04/hossein-derakhshan-social-media-kills-open-web-170415112135200.html.
14 Taewoo Nam, “A tool for liberty or oppression? A cross-national study of the Internet’s influence on democracy,” Telematics and Informatics 34 (2017): 540.
15 Elson et. al, “Background on Social Media Use,” 13.
17 New York Times, 2014
18 Azadeh Ensha and Robert Mackey, “Interview With an Iranian Blogger.” New York Times, October 14, 2009, https://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/14/interview-with-an-iranian-blogger/.
19 Elson et. al, “Background on Social Media Use,” 13.
20 Saeid Golkar, “Liberation or Suppression Technologies? The Internet, the Green Movement and the Regime in Iran,” International Journal of Emerging Technologies and Society 9, no. 1 (2011): 62.
21 Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, 2010; as quoted in Elson et. al, “Background on Social Media Use,” 16.
22 Christian Christensen, “Discourses of Technology and Liberation: State Aid to Net Activists in an Era of “Twitter Revolutions,” The Communication Review 14, no. 3 (2011): 244.
23 Golkar, “Liberation or Suppression Technologies?,” 59.
24 Nam, “A tool for liberty or oppression?,” 538.
26 Mercedes Bunz, “Twitter reveals its top trends of 2009,” The Guardian, December 16, 2009, https://www.theguardian.com/media/pda/2009/dec/16/twitter-trending-topics-2009.
27 Niki Akhavan, Electronic Iran: The Cultural Politics of an Online Evolution (London: Rutgers University Press, 2013): 83.
28 Elson et. al., “Background on Social Media Use,” 13.
29 Associated Press, “Iranian government blocks Facebook access,” The Guardian, May 24, 2009, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/may/24/facebook-banned-iran.
30 Elson et. al., “Background on Social Media Use,” 14.
32 Golkar, “Liberation or Suppression Technologies?,” 63.
35 Ibid, 62.
37 Kit Smith, “Marketing: 110 Amazing Social Media Statistics and Facts,” Brandwatch Blog, April 2, 2018, https://www.brandwatch.com/blog/96-amazing-social-media-statistics-and-facts/.
38 Bruce Etling, Robert Faris, John Palfrey, “Political Change in the Digital Age: The Fragility and Promise of Online Organizing,” SAIS Review of International Affairs 30, no. 2 (Summer-Fall 2010): 39.
39 Elson et. al, “Background on Social Media Use,” 14.
40 Christian Christensen, “Iran: networked dissent,” Le Monde Diplomatique, July 1, 2009, https://mondediplo.com/outsidein/iran-networked-dissent.
41 Elson et. al, “Background on Social Media Use,” 16.
42 Diamond, “Liberation Technology,” 81.
43 Christensen, “Iran: networked dissent.”
44 Christensen, “Discourses of Technology and Liberation,” 239.
46 Diamond, “Liberation Technology,” 71.
47 Christensen, “Discourses of Technology and Liberation,” 238.
48 CBC News, “Social media plays 'extremely important' role in Iranian protests despite censorship,” CBC News, January 4, 2018, http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/iran-protests-social-media-telegram-1.4471226.
50 Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI). “Report: Guards at the Gate: The Expanding State Control Over the Internet in Iran.” Report (January 2018). Downloaded April 1, 2018. https://www.iranhumanrights.org/wp-content/uploads/EN-Guards-at-the-gate-High-quality.pdf?x96855.
51 Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), “Official Suggests Iran May Soon Block Access to Widely Used Telegram Messaging App,” Accessed April 1, 2018, https://www.iranhumanrights.org/2018/03/official-suggests-iran-may-soon-block-access-to-widely-used-telegram-messaging-app/.
53 CHRI, Guards at the Gate,” 57.
54 Ibid, 69.
55 Akhavan, “Electronic Iran,” 108.
56 Melissa Etehad, “Telegram was the app where Iranians talked politics. Then the government caught on,” Los Angeles Times, March 13, 2017, http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-telegram-iran-20170313-story.html.
57 Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, “Husband, Dad, Grandfather, University Professor, President, Mayor, Proud Iranian,” Twitter, January 2017, https://twitter.com/Ahmadinejad1956.
58 Hassan Rouhani, “Had sucessful talks with PM @NarendraModi today about #ChabaharPort and railroad related industries. India and Iran are cooperating in the crucial areas of transit and energy and will further extend and develop their collaboration,” Twitter, February 17, 2018, https://twitter.com/hassanrouhani/status/964902487173066752.
59 Akhavan, “Electronic Iran,” 112.
61 Hamed Jafari, “6 in 10 Iranians Are a Telegram Member,” Tech Rasa, September 19, 2017, http://techrasa.com/2017/09/19/6-10-iranians-telegram-member/.
62 CBC News, 2018.
64 Diamond, “Liberation Technology,” 70.
66 Ibid, 80.