Friday, January 28, 2011

Facebook, Twitter, Tunisia & Egypt 1

If anyone doubted the ability of the Internet to change things, they have their answer.  The Internet seems to be marking a new age of openness.

What happens when people come into contact with the Internet?  They yearn for freedom and they realize that there is strength in numbers.

We cannot ignore the world changing events that are happening in the Middle East.  We have had an ongoing series in Internet Censorship and we have already covered Egypt and Tunisia.  And because of the fast pace of technology, our articles are already dated.  So here are some updates.

The government of Tunisia has been overthrown.  Life will not go back to the usual there anymore.  Despite the governments efforts to block Facebook and Twitter, the people prevailed in their desire for communication.  We think this should serve as a warning for all countries that oppress their people to take note that by its very nature, the Internet is ALL about communication and sharing.
"I know you're out there, I can feel you now. I know that you're afraid. You're afraid of us. You're afraid of change. I don't know the future. I didn't come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how its going to begin. I am going to hang up this phone and then I am going to show these people what you do not want them to see. I'm going to show them a world without you, a world without rules and controls, borders or boundaries, a world where anything is possible. Where we go from there, is a choice I leave to you."
Neo, The Matrix
Joe Sullivan, Facebook
According to a story published in the Atlantic Monthly, Facebook played a major role in the overthrow of the dictator Ben Ali.  Shortly after the XMAS holiday, Facebook's security officer Joe Sullivan noticed that many people were writing them that they could no longer get into their Facebook accounts.  They then realized that the Tunisian government was attempting to steal the passwords of every Facebook member in Tunisia.  According to John Dunn from Techworld:
Full details of the extraordinary attack by the regime on its own people are unclear but are said to have operated through Tunisian ISPs directing users to fake versions of Facebook and possibly other social media sites from where injected Javascript code was used to record the keystrokes entered during login.
Facebook rerouted all Tunisian connections through an encrypted HTTPS secure login. They also asked all Tunisian members who tried to login to identify Facebook friends.  This worked and stopped the government key logger.

The censorship that until recently had been common in Tunisia is named by the people as "Ammar 404."  This refers to an imaginary character called Ammar who censors the Internet from sites the government did not wish for the people to see with a 404 error which is a general error which normally means that your computer could not connect with the server you were seeking.  In May of 2010, things were already heating up in Tunisia over government Internet censorship.  Watch this video on Vimeo.  If you cannot see the embedded video here is the link:

SAYEB.SALEH.S01E01.GENESIS.VO.TN from Malek404 on Vimeo.

Here is another video posted by the same blogger in Tunisia last May.  If you cannot see the embedded video here is the link:

Message de Neo à AMMAR 404 from Malek404 on Vimeo.

doctored picture via: Atlantic Monthly
In Tunisia, Mark Zuckerberg has become a hero of sorts, since Facebook is viewed as a precious communication tool for activists.  Someone doctored a picture of Mr. Zuckerberg holding a protest sign with a motto.  Although Mr. Zuckerberg may be viewed this way, it still remains to be seen whether he will grow up and decide to use his site's power for freedom and justice as opposed to making money.

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