Iran steps up its web censorship by blocking access to virtual private networks. The online campaigning for Colombian coffee growers pays off. And a fascinating water and sound experiment
Iran blocks VPN use ahead of presidential election
The Iranian authorities have taken web censorship to a new level by blocking the use of all virtual private networks, or “VPNs” which are not controlled by the state and are used by Iranian netizens to get around the extensive Internet filter implemented by the Mullah regime. With VPNs cut off, it will be even more difficult for Iranian web users to access foreign websites, starting with social networks.
The magazine "Security week" says these new restrictions to Internet access constitute a preventative measure to counter campaigning from government opponents in the run up to June’s presidential election. The article reminds readers the Iranian authorities will do anything to avoid a repeat of 2009 when the opposition Green Movement took to the web to denounce irregularities in the electoral process and coordinate mass anti-government rallies.
And this isn’t the authorities’ only initiative geared towards silencing online critics ahead of the presidential election. As Reporters without Borders explains, Iran had already drawn up a list of 25 election-related Internet crimes back in December 2011; so calling for an election boycott for example or publishing content deemed counterrevolutionary are offenses punishable by a prison sentence.
In the meantime however the latest measures mean Iranian web users will be more cut off from the rest of the world than ever, the move is consistent with Tehran’s plans to switch citizens on to a domestic Internet network, largely isolated from the World Wide Web, which the authorities say is used by Western nations and government enemies as a tool for spying and spreading propaganda.
Colombia: web users show support for coffee growers
Last week Colombian coffee growers ended their 11-day strike to protest against poor working conditions and loss of income after finally signing a deal with the authorities. The government has agreed on a subsidy to offset lower prices for their product on international markets – a victory for the coffee growers and their supporters and it’s partly down to the mass online campaigning throughout the duration of the strike.
Indeed, social networks have played a pivotal role in drumming up support and raising public awareness. The Twitter hashtags “I support the coffee farmers strike” and “Colombia says the coffee farmers are right” were soon trending heavily in the country; many social networkers posted under these keywords to encourage fellow citizens to join the movement and to urge the government to take action and help the farmers.
Activists also flooded the web with posters: creations that focused, in particular, on the importance of the coffee growing profession to Colombia, and referring to the famers, like we see here, as national heroes.
There are also a number of videos featuring accounts from the coffee growers circulating online, giving the people of Colombia further insight into their plight. Emotional, moving testimonies from farmers like this man who explains with tears in his eyes that he can no longer earn enough to live. These pieces of amateur video footage have been widely circulated online and have no doubt convinced a great number of web users that the farmers deserve justice.
Poutsch, an opinion social network
Would you wear Google glasses? Do you like horse meat? Do you trust Facebook? These are just a couple of the hundreds of questions posed on Poutsch, a new opinion-based social network. It was created by three friends from France and aims to connect people who don’t know each other but share similar opinions. An interesting initiative and yet another place for web users to discuss matters that are important to them and even let off steam.
Now trending on social networks
The "Pretty Girls, Ugly Faces" discussion thread was started on community site Reddit a few weeks ago and, as the title suggests, involves pretty girls from all over the world pulling the ugliest face possible and posting the pic online. It’s become so popular that a dedicated website has since been created and there’s now also a similar thread for men…
Video of the day
This incredible water and sound experiment was carried out by the Brusspup collective and documented in this YouTube video. We see a steady stream of water go through some pretty astonishing changes. The optical illusion was created using sound waves from a speaker which alters the liquid flow but is invisible to the naked eye. The producers of the video were able to capture it on film however, by using a camera that shoots 24 frames per second.