One channel is shut, another opens. While the real-time blood conflict in Tehran seems to have settled down into (mostly) peaceful protest, the cyberwar (particularly via Twitter) becomes bigger, more furious and as always, more confusing.

Credibility of resources has become a problem for both pro-Mousavi activists and those trying to shut them down, with conflicting advice and information all/over/the/place.

Conflate this with serious concerns over the treatment of foreign media — ABC’s Ben Knight’s been thrown out — and it’s easy to see how everyone might be beginning to lose the plot.

Here, Crikey attempts to break it down:

What do you mean they shut down SMS?

Iranian authorities can’t seem to keep up. In a country where protest was unheard of, thousands have taken to the streets — authorities have been unable to contain the masses. Similarly, in the digital war zone, users-cum-activists remain ahead of the curve.

All despite distressing reports like this one from the Committee to Protect Journalists on the plight of journalists:

“Hours before polls opened on Friday, SMS, or short message service, was disrupted in Iran, according to local news accounts. Mobile phone service was shut down in Tehran on Saturday, although the service was restored on Sunday. SMS remains inoperable in Tehran, according to OpenNet Initiative.”

and this from Twitter-fed news service, Breaking Tweets:

“Twitterers reported that Facebook, YouTube, Friend Feed, and a host of other social networking sites including Twitter itself had been blocked on Saturday, as well as a number of news sites.”

Are the authorities winning? Doesn’t look like it.

On Monday, we wrote about Iranian pro-Mousavi microblogger known as @change_for_iran. He remains both awake and influential, despite the odds. A few hours ago he posted this:

@scarletphlox I know, I just saw it myself. my current Internet functionality is limited to twitter thanks for the speed & filtering.

Everyone on Twitter lives in Tehran

Speaking of Twitter, the well-beloved ‘spreading ideas’ video-site TED has released a timely post on the powers of social media.

And it’s power we can see: the Twitterverse’s efforts to confuse Iranian authorities seem to be working, at least in as far as tweets from the ground haven’t been shut down.

Beginners guides to the Cyberwar” have been posted, re-posted, tweeted and re-tweeted no end. And, despite a few lone voices pushing against the tide, most are in agreement about the way forward — maintain the cloud false data.

That is, do everything you possibly can to convince Iranian authorities that the Twitterverse has moved to Tehran (by changing profile locations and timezones) and Tehran has fragmented across the globe (by offering hosting services) and ‘they’ won’t be able to decipher real Iranian dissidents from fake ones.

Unsurprisingly, Tweeters are lapping up the digital solidarity. So much so, that hierarchies are emerging (not unlike real life solidarity movements, really).

One of the first bloggers to offer guidelines on the cyber war has now had its account suspended (for reasons unconfirmed).

Luckily, the guide had been copied and pasted elsewhere before the suspension,  and at the bottom of the original post we witness a classic example “proper” dissidents posting warnings to “newbies” about how to behave online:

“Please remember that this is about the future of the Iranian people, while it might be exciting to get caught up in the flow of participating in a new meme, do not lose sight of what this is really about.”

All in all, it’s no wonder Peter Brauer on Popten reckons the Iranian Government doesn’t know what’s hit it — we’re not sure anyone does.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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