Despite Iranian Crackdowns, YouTube Still Providing People A Voice

Since last Saturday, the best quote I’ve read in relation to the current situation in Iran is from Tom Stoppard’s 1971 play Jumpers: “It’s not the voting that’s democracy, it’s the counting.” This has become the sticking point in Iran’s controversial presidential contest, which has seen countless citizens take to the streets and the Internet to protest what many are claiming was a stolen election. And while the Iranian government has done its best to suppress discussion online, they’ve been unable to thwart many of these voices, who are still chanting loudly even five days after Mahmoud Ahmadinijad was announced to be the winner.

Of course, that’s because the rest of the Internet’s been helping out however it can. The big tech story to arise as a result of this unrest is the use of Twitter in Iran to spread information, but online video has also been key in providing an on-the-ground look at what exactly is happening in Tehran. Web sites like Citizentube have been tracking these clips, and when reports came in that YouTube and other sites were being blocked by the Iranian government, they provided a link to Howcast’s instructional video How to Circumvent an Internet Proxy, which was created in December 2008 but is extremely applicable here.

Even YouTube, which does have a history of working with governments over people, has embraced the Iranian people’s use of the site, posting on the company blog that, “In essence, YouTube has become a citizen-fueled news bureau of video reports filed straight from the streets of Tehran, unfiltered. Because the Iranian government is cracking down on local and international media coverage, these citizen-generated videos are providing an exclusive look at the developing violence.” YouTube has assembled a playlist of that violence, urging viewer discretion.

But there’s no shortage of non-violent protests to watch. This playlist, created by Citizentube, features videos from protests around the world — Vienna, Washington D.C., Perth, Australia — which are peaceful but passionate.

For those of us using these clips as a way of understanding what’s happening, video search is key to finding good stuff — YouTube’s results for “iran” currently pull up over 9,000 videos uploaded over the last week, though most of them focus on the election as seen from an American perspective, such as the vlogbrothers’ 5 Reasons to Doubt the Results. Meanwhile, Vodpod’s search engine pulls from clips picked up by its users, which means that the results are slightly more relevant in their reflection of the Iranian POV, such as this open letter to the people of the world.

The people continue to rally (opposition candidate Mir Hussein Moussavi has called for another protest on Thursday). It’s a populace determined to be heard, and the world is still listening.

Vodpod is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.


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