Widespread Internet outage in Iran. Online reports from Senegal as violence escalates in the run up to the presidential election. And a new online dating service especially for geeks.
Iran cuts off Internet access
Iranians have been cut off from the Internet, again. It’s the second time in less than a month. Email services and secure channels have been worst hit, along with proxy servers used over Virtual Private networks, or VPNs, servers that up until now have been used by companies and individuals to bypass government efforts to block access to foreign news sites and social networks.
The authorities have issued no official statement. But the first disruptions came when the opposition launched online appeals to take part in demonstrations on the 14th of February. These attempts to mobilize the people to take to the streets clearly got the Iranian regime worried. As we can see in this amateur video footage, there was tightened security in Tehran that day, to quell any rallies.
The moves to cut off Internet access are apparently aimed at silencing opponents in the run up to Iran’s parliamentary elections on the 2nd March, the first elections since the highly contested presidential election back in 2009. A hundred or so reformist bloggers have already said they will be boycotting the upcoming elections.
The authorities have repeatedly stated that a firewalled national Internet will soon become operational, cutting Iran off from the rest of the world, and this latest outage has sparked concern this is now becoming reality. But new tools will no doubt soon be made available to help Iranians get back online. The Tor Project, which focuses on combatting online censorship, is developing new software to help the people of Iran circumnavigate the latest blocks.
Rising tensions ahead of Senegal’s presidential election
Violent unrest continues in Senegal, with less than one week to go before the presidential election on the 26th February. Riot police and opposition activists have been engaged in tense stand offs ever since the President, Abdoulaye Wade, announced plans to run for a third term in office. Local web users have been posting first hand reports of the situation in Senegal on the web.
These images were filmed over the past few days and show the street demonstrations taking places across the country, and in particular in the capital Dakar. People are protesting Wades’ plans to stand in the elections, saying it goes against the Constitution.
The authorities have banned any public rallies, and as we can see in this amateur video footage, these demonstrations have often descended into violent clashes with the police. We see security forces firing tear gas canisters at protesters; they have even thrown stones at demonstrators, as shown in this video clip posted online by Senrevolution.com a website with close ties to the opposition.
Some web users at the scene have been reporting on the situation in real time, mostly via Twitter, under the hashtags #sunu2012, #kebetu and also #M23. According to reports several protesters have already been killed in the violence.
And the anti-Wade movement appears to be steadily growing, and not just in Senegal. As we can see in these amateur documents, doing the rounds on sharing sites, Senegalese living abroad have taken part in a number of rallies over the past few weeks. In Canada for example, in France, in Germany… all calling upon the authorities to end the repression and voicing their opposition to the current President.
Now trending on social networks
Francis Kariuki, the chief of Kenyan village Lanet Umoja is using Twitter as a crime fighting tool. According to a report by the AP news agency, he sends out messages to townsfolk via the micro blogging site to inform them of any crimes; burglaries for example or missing children… the messages are received either via the Internet or via SMS, meaning villagers can come to the victims’ aid as soon as possible. This latest initiative demonstrates the growing popularity of Twitter in Africa, even in the more remote areas.
Geeks, these devotees of the Internet and all things computer related, people often think they’re shy and don’t get out much. New online dating site Geekmemore.com has been set up with this is mind. It’s geared towards men and women who share the same interests and should help them overcome the bad reputation they’ve acquired. Launched in France at the beginning of January, Geekmemore already has over 15 000 members.
Video of the day
American Space Agency NASA has released this magnificent video of the moon and the northern lights, seen from space. It’s a stunning show and available to view in its entirety on sharing sites.