After watching the Iranian revolution fall into the hands of "We, The People" on a global scale, a somber air of seriousness has settled across the online pages of Twitter, Facebook, blogs, MySpace, YouTube, Hulu, TwitPic, and a plethora of similar social media sites. It's almost the same as the days following 9/11, when the imagery, stories, and video shocked the American people into stunned, introspective silence. The footage making its way from the country once known as Persia is both brutal and graphic, threatening to rend your heart in grief. For the first time since before Iran shifted power in 1979 to Ayatollah Khomeini, there seems to be a tenuous kinship between the people of the two nations rather than the fear and hatred that once permeated the air.
The compassion of America, once aroused, can be powerful, far-reaching, and effective. Yet, in our effort to "help others," there are precautions that we must take so as not to harm those we are working to help. On the sidelines, we have very little to fear; for the Iranian citizens, a mistake will most likely lead to their execution.
Yesterday, the Cyberwar Guide for Iran Elections was posted on the site Boing Boing with "rules" on how we might help the most while causing the least harm. As the protests and killings continue, Iranian security forces have begun to use Twitter to spread disinformation, making it vital to not only clearly understand the gravity of the situation, but to take extreme care to ensure the "sources" being retweeted are valid. The worst mistake someone outside of Iran could make would be to give away a protester's position...
Sometimes our well-intentioned acts lead to disastrous results for those in perilous fight for their lives.
Below is the Cyberwar Guide For Iran Elections in it's entirety. Please read the "rules" listed closely.
"The purpose of this guide is to help you participate constructively in the Iranian election protests through Twitter.
1. Do NOT publicise proxy IP's over twitter, and especially not using the #iranelection hashtag. Security forces are monitoring this hashtag, and the moment they identify a proxy IP they will block it in Iran. If you are creating new proxies for the Iranian bloggers, DM them to @stopAhmadi or @iran09 and they will distributed them discretely to bloggers in Iran.
2. Hashtags, the only two legitimate hashtags being used by bloggers in Iran are #iranelection and #gr88, other hashtag ideas run the risk of diluting the conversation.
3. Keep you bull$hit filter up! Security forces are now setting up twitter accounts to spread disinformation by posing as Iranian protesters. Please don't retweet impetuosly, try to confirm information with reliable sources before retweeting. The legitimate sources are not hard to find and follow.
4. Help cover the bloggers: change your twitter settings so that your location is TEHRAN and your time zone is GMT +3.30. Security forces are hunting for bloggers using location and timezone searches. If we all become 'Iranians' it becomes much harder to find them.
5. Don't blow their cover! If you discover a genuine source, please don't publicise their name or location on a website. These bloggers are in REAL danger. Spread the word discretely through your own networks but don't signpost them to the security forces. People are dying there, for real, please keep that in mind...
6. Denial of Service attacks. If you don't know what you are doing, stay out of this game. Only target those sites the legitimate Iranian bloggers are designating. Be aware that these attacks can have detrimental effects to the network the protesters are relying on. Keep monitoring their traffic to note when you should turn the taps on or off.
7. Do spread the (legitimate) word, it works! When the bloggers asked for twitter maintenance to be postponed using the #nomaintenance tag, it had the desired effect. As long as we spread good information, provide moral support to the protesters, and take our lead from the legitimate bloggers, we can make a constructive contribution.
Please remember that this is about the future of the Iranian people, while it might be exciting to get caught up in the flow of participating in a new meme, do not lose sight of what this is really about."
Digital Pivot Editor Jon Leung wrote a blog warning of similar pitfalls a few days ago. He also included relevant information on the importance of determining sources, avoiding biased views, and the author's intent.
As Social Media enthusiasts, users, and experts, we often do not have the luxury of fact checkers or knowing if our sources are valid. We also, in many cases, do not have the benefit of receiving first-hand information, which means that it is our ethical and moral responsibility to print facts, check our sources for credibility, and neither add, nor detract, information that would alter the intent of the story.
Thinking back to 9/11 and the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centers, Twitter might have been used to aid the rescuers that searched for survivors. Remember that one of the major criticisms from the 9/11 Commission was the fact that the EMS services, police, National Guard, Coast Guard, etc. were unable to communicate with one another. Twitter certainly could have played a major role in coordinating rescue efforts.