In 2009, CRC — run by Austin Heap (Executive Director) and Daniel Colascione — created the flagship proxy software that allowed Iranians to get online in a post-election climate of censored Internet. In its initial days, Heap and Haystack got much praise — and rightfully so — as it was created with positive intentions to help voiceless Iranians find their voices online. The role social media played during the election aftermath — which saw the much disputed victory of incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over Green opposition candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi — shaped the online Green Movement. Digital cameras and smartphones soared high in the air, capturing everything from protester chants to the tragic death of Neda Agha Soltan, and it was all uploaded to the Internet for the world to see.
In a country where the Queen has her own YouTube Channel, you would think Internet is a free and open space for all, but not exactly.
Because Jordanian authorities believe that “browsing the Internet is a waste of work time and a huge drain on public money,” 48 local news websites were recently blocked in all workplaces. Of the news websites blocked, both government endorsed Petra News Agency and Al Rai newspaper were on the list. The blogger behind The Black Iris of Jordan notes that of the 70 million websites explored during working hours, only 13,000 of those are relevant to the employees jobs. In light of these new online restrictions, the government even ordered “Internet café owners to install surveillance cameras.”
Look familiar? Another Abu Ghraib photo frenzy? Needless to say, not the first of its kind.
Photos taken by former IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) soldier Eden Abergil of her 2008 Gaza Strip experiences — paraded in her Facebook photo display titled “The Army.. the most beautiful time of my life 🙂” — has caused online outcry. The photo album, which was once public, has now been personally censored by Abergil and blocked from others to see.
On August 18th 2010, Facebook enabled the Places app, introducing a 3D human element to the traditional status update, allowing you to “immediately tell people about that favorite spot.” Places is similar to FourSquare, a smartphone app that lists thousands of places for you to check in at, based on your GPS location. According to Michael Sharon, product manager for Places: “the next time you head off on vacation or go to a show, check in with Places to find out which friends are there,” either via your iPhone or touch.facebook.com.
The SXSW Interactive conference, held in Austin Texas, is five days of undeniably awesome presentations from the brightest minds about up-and-coming technology. There are also numerous networking events hosted by industry leaders, and special programming to showcase innovative ideas that the international community has to offer.
Three days later as if to highlight the challenges that still remain the Seacom fiber optic cable connecting east Africa to India and Europe failed. The disruption brought connection speeds in Tanzania and Kenya to a crawl while Uganda and Rwanda switched back to more expensive satellite connections. Submarine cables are difficult to repair and vulnerable to accident or malfeasance. In 2008 large parts of the Middle East and Asia were left without connections after an anchor severed the FLAG cable in the Mediterranean.
The challenges don’t end once a cable is laid; extending the connection to rural locations is difficult and costly. Copper wire used for low bandwidth lines is frequently stolen with South Africa alone estimated to lose $1 billion dollars because of replacement costs. These examples highlight both the potential and vulnerability of an increasingly sophisticated communications infrastructure.