In his June 2009 guide, a follow-up to this list of helpful advice, Esko Reinikainen offered some solid ideas and advice for activists and supporters of Iran on Twitter, which I have updated for 2011, and present to you here:
I will segment categories of engagement, and I urge you not to step beyond your capabilities in choosing which category to confine yourself in, there where you can make the most constructive contribution. Below the general principles you will find sections for the three categories of Supporter, Activist, and Cyberwarrior.
- Immunise yourself from becoming a mis-informant. Knowledge and critical thinking are the key.
- Separate facts from opinions.
- Be extremely wary of any messages implicating Israel, advocating violence, asking for money, or making wild claims about tanks or acid from the sky. Check, check, and check again before spreading information. False information kills people.
- Relational empathy – put yourself in their shoes. The protesters, the regime, external agitators.
- Think about your audience, who is your message going to?
- Do NOT churn out retweets from any of the #iranelection related hashtags unless you are 100% CERTAIN the information is 100% reliable and safe. False information kills people.
This is the most basic level of engagement.
1. Inform yourself -
First get a basic general understanding of the situation in Iran and the context in which the current protests are happening. A good place to start is this BBC Iran profile page.
Next you want to read recent and accurate updates from the evolving situation on the ground. The safest way to do this is by reading one of the liveblogs. All of the information on these has been verified to some extent, and if not, that will be explicitly stated. At the time of updating the following were actively curating information from tweets and other sources:
2. Inform others
Only once you have a good grasp of the issues will you be in a position to make a constructive contribution. Spread the word through your blogs, mailing lists and twitter feeds. Now that you have done your research, you will recognize those tweets that are confirmed information. You have already seen them confirmed, they are safe to distribute. If you see conflicting accounts from reliable sources, hold fire until consensus is reached.
3. Show your support
Iranians don't need or want overt interventions from the outside world, but they do need to know that we are supporting them. Make noise in your community, gather supporters, go to rallies, wear green, turn your profile pics green, make green ribbons, sign petitions. Take pictures and post those. Iranians have thanked us for our moral support and they need to know that is a constant. The regime can also feel it, but we must be careful not to give them the opportunity to label this support as foreign interventionist meddling in Iranian affairs.
4. Keep the momentum going
We must not tire. This is a long game. When the hashtags stop trending, and the next celebrity break up hits the red tops, the brave Iranians still face the batons and the bullets. We must keep supporting them until they get the change they are after. They will let us know when our work is done.
Thank you for your continued time and effort as a Supporter of the Iranian protest movement, it's really valued!
This level of engagement requires application and a good deal of time investment, it is not a hobby. If you are not willing or able to make this commitment, please continue to be a constructive supporter.
1. Read around the subject, get a good grasp of the context. Read up on Iran’s history, internal politics, international relations, regional politics, and Shi'a Islam. To understand the legal basis for protests, read the Iranian constitution, take note of article 27.
2. It is worth understanding the 3, 7, and 40 day cycle of martyrdom. It will help you understand when certain spikes in protest activity may happen.
3. Understand the layers of complexity in Iranian politics.
4. Monitor hashtags, there are quite a few now. You want to be on the lookout for consistently good sources of information. Reports that in time keep getting consistently verified. Resist the temptation to retweet something *new* and *exciting* until you are sure the info is good.
5. Look for disinformation, there has been a lot of secret police activity on twitter since the June 2009 election. Some of them are very convincing, dedicated and now enjoy a thick veneer of credibility simply by having been around for the duration. They will retweet good info for a while and then they they will throw out a really bad one calling people to some action which is in effect a trap. If you spot someone laying traps like this, you must expose them. I recommend you follow agitators for a while to learn their patterns. There is also a list of corrupt twitterers at twitspam which is no longer being updated but may still contain links to Twitter users you can check to get an idea of typical fake account activity.
6. Damage limitation. When you monitor someone on the hashtags RTing bad information from regime or other agents, politely send them an @ reply or a DM if they follow you (be polite, follow them back at least temporarily so they can reply to you privately) explaining why they should not trust that source or spread their message. Even better, ask them to delete their message and make a post explaining why, so their followers also have a chance of escaping the trap.
7. Confuse government agents and other agitators. Once you have identified one, have fun with them. Take on a new persona and befriend them. Start occupying their time with your sympathy to their cause and create wild goose chases for them. Learn from the anti-nigerian scammer groups. This is something that appeals to certain types of people and I leave it here for you, but I personally question how activity like this is helpful to people in Iran, and as it takes up so much time. I also feel regret when that time is lost forever to other productive projects which so often go begging for the help and support of intelligent, committed volunteers. ~ lissnup
8. Identify counter-intelligence agents and methods. This is a cat and mouse game, both sides are learning fast. There are some communities to provide advice for the protest movement. The starting point for counter-intelligence is getting a grasp of the interest someone is trying to advance. They can use blunt force or very subtle infiltration techniques. Look through the previously linked site and see if you can find evidence of an interested country's intelligence services trying to manipulate the message.
9. Hashtag discipline – let direction come from Iran or very trusted sources, no need to get creative or go overboard or you risk confusing people and your own tweets can take on the look of a spam account.
10. Monitor for legitimate news or urgent requests and channel them constructively
11. If you don’t have trusted contacts in Iran, channel your information to people in the west who do, if you can’t figure out how to find them, better go back up to the supporters group.
Thank you Activists!
This is where I reach the limits of my competencies so I will simply refer you to people who know what they are talking about. All I will say is that you must only risk hardware you can afford to lose as you face the distinct possibility of attracting a robust counter-attack. Also please only engage is surgical DOS strikes against targets that are specifically designated by trusted Iranians, and only during the designated windows of time.
1. If you are looking at providing Proxies or TOR components, a little research will show you the place to go.
2. If you want to go hardcore, neda has a net, go find ESR. If you don't understand this, Cyberwarrior is not the right title for you, at least not yet! Find online communities, take your lead from them
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