Friday, July 17, 2009

Generation Anonymous

In these past weeks, the untimely nature of MJ madness buried some significant global issues. Especially, the shoplifting of democracy in Iran. I’ve read numerous articles, but this one in particular (plain text below) added some provocative context around both the struggle itself and utilization of social media as a broadcast channel, replacing and outdoing traditional channels – in short, it’s a truth nugget ya’ll. Big shout out goes to Locke Hildebrand of CultureWaves. I think it’s a shining example of our local tech geek FX’s discussion re: cultural latency – indeed it is approaching zero!

I would have provided a link to the article, but it's not a pubilc site...

"I’m sure by now most of you know what is going on in Iran, so I won’t go into heavy detail on the topic itself. I want to talk about how social media and the political fallout in Iran have created our first look at a cyber war.
This current crisis tells us the Virtual Forest™ is becoming a lot less virtual. It also has profound implications on what you chose to do, or not do in your business. The cyber part of the war started on Twitter.
Two days into protesting the election in Iran, the hashtags started appearing on Twitter, the trenches of our new battleground with names such as #Iran, #IranElection, #Mousavi, #GR88, and many more. And for a while, what seemed like trending topics soon developed into means of communication between Iranians in a tightly monitored internet. The next day, people from all over the world began setting up proxy servers from their computers to give Iranians access to the internet, and the cyber warfare began.
Soon, Iranians began to tweet out government news sites that needed to be bombarded, and groups of hackers and programmers quickly began to DDOS attack sites. However, in the long run this proved more harmful than good. Sure it forced Iranian media sites down, but also slowed the already limited bandwidth that the protestors were using, so smarter tactics came into play.
Two of the largest internet freedom advocates jumped in the mix and joined together to create Anonymous Iran. Anonymous (already infamous for its war on Scientology, and overall online attacks, and antics on and off the “end of the internet” website 4chan) teamed up with The Pirate Bay (a torrent hub of illegal downloading and free media that is slowly evolving itself into a political party).
Anonymous Iran began to host everything from protest videos, which Youtube was taking down due to graphic violence, to English-Persian translations of makeshift medical advice and proxy setups. The site has been averaging 15,000 viewers at a time.
All across the globe, those sympathetic to the protestors began to weigh in. They were anxious for a way to make a difference, as this posting from Deborah Oakes at Associated Content said: “After looking at videos and photos documenting the Iran election protests, I had to find something I could do. I found it.”
From associated Content to Boing Boing, guides to getting involved sprang up, spreading involvement to those less savvy. The actions could range from protesting at the embassy in your country to simply changing your twitter location and time zone. Thousands changed their locations to Iran to mask the real Iranians from the regime’s security forces.
The Iranian security forces have noticed. In recent sweeps and raids at the universities, they have taken memory cards, smashed computers and confiscated cell phones. Globally, hackers have countered with denial of service attacks on Iranian government and media websites.
Social media is shaping everything in Iran right now. With news media coverage being shut off and anyone attempting to be a media hero being arrested, we’re finally seeing social media take a stand beyond a waste of time and talking to friends.
People are saying that the voice of the next generation is not a famous person, a music icon or a screen legend, but rather the individual. Everyone’s voice counts now. Those who only a few years ago talked about their lives on LiveJournal are now looked at as respected bloggers. The perspective has left the news room; and as news is reported faster on Twitter than the networks can break it, you have to wonder how long it’s going to be before seemingly anonymous people themselves become known not for blogging, but for being a newscaster. It’s already started with the election uprising in Iran. The media is changing, and the voice, once so narrow and focused, is now everyone’s.
The thing you have to remember is, well two things actually, are what side do I take, and how much will it hurt me in the end if I do the wrong thing. If we’re learning anything from #Iranelection, it’s that the power of anonymity is vast, it’s global, and everything is being watched. When they look your way, make sure people are seeing the right things.
In the Iranian protests, Twitter, Facebook and Google have gotten kudos for rescheduling maintenance, adding Farsi, and generally making themselves available. Sites such as 4chan and groups such as Anonymous have seen their street cred rise. People expect you to take a stand. Don’t be afraid of it.
Conversely, businesses that have come down on the wrong side of this event have been quickly vilified. CNN’s glacial weekend response while the Twitter firestorm raged earned it a #CNNFail hashtag. As Robert Scoble said at, “Yesterday is the day when Twitter thoroughly beat CNN. Badly beat CNN. Embarrassingly beat CNN. And most other USA-based media too.”
Nokia and Siemens both took hits for aiding the Iranian regime with monitoring software installed last year. They weren’t thinking about the Virtual Forest that permeated their business and opened them to public scrutiny and scorn. Are you? That innocuous-looking contract you are working on now may come to light at the worst time for your company.
Are you working on the side of the angels? If not, are you ready for the large, anonymous and organized response that could come knocking at your door in a digital instant?"