How come Twitter's still getting through while other social networking services have been stifled by Iranian authorities? We'd been meaning to google that but didn't have to. Instead, the answer came to us by way of Iranian twitterer Elzone from Tehran: "Times' Kristof: How Iranian protesters are evading the gov't Twitter shutdown," a classic tale of the American Dream come true. "It is these Chinese supporters of Falun Gong who are the best hope for Iranians trying to reach blocked sites," explains Nicholas Kristof:
The protesters’ arsenal, such as those tweets on Twitter.com, depends on the Internet or other communications channels. So the Iranian government is blocking certain Web sites and evicting foreign reporters or keeping them away from the action.
The push to remove witnesses may be the prelude to a Tehran Tiananmen. Yet a secret Internet lifeline remains, and it’s a tribute to the crazy, globalized world we live in. [Or maybe, Mr. Kristof, it's a tribute to the golden door of opportunity the US opened to freedom-seekers fleeing tryranny. – ed] The lifeline was designed by Chinese computer engineers in America to evade Communist Party censorship of a repressed Chinese spiritual group, the Falun Gong … usage of the consortium’s software has tripled in the last week. It set a record on Wednesday of more than 200 million hits from Iran, representing more than 400,000 people …
Here's how it works:
Freegate amounts to a dissident’s cyberkit. E-mails sent with it can be encrypted. And after a session is complete, a press of a button eliminates any sign that it was used on that computer …
Responding to the growing use of Freegate in Iran, the consortium introduced a Farsi-language version last July — and usage there skyrocketed.
"Noticed green avatars all around in support of #IranElection? See who started this great idea," twitters Mr Tweet himself, answering another question that's been on our mind, even as we've gone from pink to green (Our own avatar, before and after, above).
"If President Obama wants to support democratic movements on a shoestring, he should support an 'Internet freedom initiative' pending in Congress," Kristof gently chides the President who "chose not to choose on Iran":
This would include $50 million in the appropriations bill for these censorship-evasion technologies. The 21st-century equivalent of the Berlin wall is a cyberbarrier, and we can help puncture it.
As tayastorm twittered from Tehran this morning, "fight back government's propaganda in twitter! if we lost here we have no other place."
Note: Check out all the latest Iran tweets here. This just in as we write: BBC confirm reformists detained, former Vice-President Abtahi, Mustafa Tajzadeh and Saeed Hajjarian. Our own twitter contributions here.