Q: What might Tehran and Southwest Airlines have in common?
(No, it’s not another ‘peanuts’ joke.)
A: An intolerance with passengers text-chatting online.
Dan York, a tech strategist, author and blogger discovered to his dismay that while Southwest had begun a WiFi Zone on board some of its flights, (and is big on, and well known for using Twitter,) it cut out Skype chat.
But blocking speech at 30,000 feet is the least of our worries in a world that is increasingly intolerant of dissenting voices. It took on a new dimension in Iran this week, in the aftermath of the highly contested elections. The Associated Press reports that the government has stepped up its Internet filtering and Iranians are unable to send text messages from their phones. The Guardian had this to say:
“Mobile phone text messages were jammed, and news and social networking websites – including the Guardian, the BBC and Facebook – as well as pro-Mousavi websites were blocked or difficult to access.”
But can a government really ‘block’ people’s voices in this age of leaky media. While Twitter is being blocked in Iran, some tweets that get through publish the addresses of proxy servers that can be accessed undetected.
And then the opposition candidate MirHossein Mousavi has been tweeting, as we know.
Despite all this other forms of technology –including jamming –are being used to circumvent the government clampdown.
Even Arab satellite TV news station Al-Arabiya was shut down.
I don’t think we will see an end to governments trying to curb dissent using intimidation and technology, but these events are unwittingly providing those who favor democratic processes good examples of how best to adapt to the next clampdown, the next autocrat, the next crisis.