Fostering greater Internet freedom in Iran
There seems to be a double standard when it comes to Internet freedoms in Iran, which is the cause of headache for many within the country.
The Internet and activism have been growing more interconnected as time progresses. This is in part because cyberspace enables a number of people from around the world to voice their opinion in a variety of outlets. This can be a great way to cultivate a healthy dialog about the state of government practices and the course that these ruling powers should take.
Social media has been an important way for people to do this. Beyond simply posting one's thoughts and opinions on these issues, these outlets can be used to mobilize large groups of people to stage protests or further seek solutions to social issues.
A tool for mobilization
Social media has been growing increasingly popular as a tool to help organize protests and demonstrations that can lead to social change. The most notable ones have occurred in Egypt and Tunisia, as a part of the larger Arab Spring.
However, before the Arab Spring, there was what was known as the Green or Facebook Revolution. This emerged in the aftermath of the election of Mahmoud Ahamdinejad, which many people felt was a corrupt election. Protestors used Facebook and Twitter to mobilize and gather in mass demonstrations.
Unfortunately, these gatherings in solidarity against the country's leader were not successful, and as a result, limitations were implemented on Internet use throughout the country, effectively blocking the social media outlets that citizens used to mobilize.
A double standard
What is puzzling about the situation in Iran is that two of the country's major leaders are quite active on social media. According to The Verge, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is a frequent Twitter user, along with current President Hassan Rouhani.
These leaders have different perceptions in the public eye. While Ayatollah Khamenei is regarded as a pretty conservative leader, Rouhani was elected on a platform that sought to bring more individual freedoms to Iranian citizens. However, regardless of their positions, both are quite active on social media.
For instance, the news source noted that the President Rouhani has a Twitter conversation with the social media outlet's founder Jack Dempsey. On the other hand, Ayatollah Khomeini also posted a picture on Twitter that was derogatory toward Israel.
"Engaging with the US, not to mention compromising on the nuclear issue, goes against what the leader and his hardliner constituency have promoted for the last decade," Afshon Ostovar, a Middle East analyst, told the news source in an email. "In a sense, Khamenei has to play the bad cop to Rouhani's good cop."
These kinds of actions create a peculiar double standard. While the citizens are still not allowed to engage in these kinds of activities online, the leader can. This is among the frustrations that many of the Iranian citizens have had with the government.
However, activists throughout the country are working to cultivate a more open Internet in Iran, though is is proving quite difficult.
According to Radio Free Europe, Fred Petrosssians, the editor in chief of Radio Farda, has been look to create more dynamic forms of activism.
"The bitter reality is that while the protest movement used social networking and citizen media in a significant way in 2009 during the hot days of protest, at present, Iranian cyber activists are simply recycling the same virtual environment without any innovation or successful use of Western media innovation," he reportedly said.
He stressed that the solution comes in being able to use the Internet as a source to promote further action, such as face to face meetings. by using these kinds of strategies hopefully, Iranians can persuade their leaders to extended their Internet rights to them as well.