As the battle over the Iranian election continues, activists outside of Iran are waging a battle of their own to make sure the flow of information to and from the country is not cut off. In what's become a cyber chess match, volunteers from around the world are going head to head with the Iranian government by deploying proxy servers and other technology to assist the protesters in staying connected to an unfiltered internet. So far, we've managed to stay one step ahead of the government and, while connection speeds have been severely throttled in Iran, the Internet is still, largely, available to anyone willing to install a bit of software.
But I believe this is just a band aide. There are many options available to the Iranian government which, for obvious reasons, we won't discuss here, that could stop the tech activist movement in its tracks and pull Iran into a virtual black hole.
So I've decided to take things a step further and move the fight from the PC onto the mobile phone. For the last few days, I've been working on a software program called TweetFree that will allow anonymous, secure, and nearly unblockable access to Twitter, anonymous email, and anonymous and secure SMS.
The software, currently being developed for Windows Mobile but eventually available to any J2ME device, will use a distributed system similar to the current PC proxy scenerio, to allow users to quickly and securely stay in communication with the outside world. I will be done with it tonight, send it out to several testers in the United States, and begin deploying it in Iran by Saturday morning.
But I hope this software goes well beyond the borders of Iran. Countries like North Korea and China all are well known censors of information and my goal is to help these users reach out to the world as well. Of particular interest to me is China which, as of 1, July, 2009, will require censoring and monitoring software to be installed on every single electronic device manufactured or used in China. Obviously, this will present a particular challenge to TweetFree as we're going to have to find a way to circumvent the monitoring tools installed on the phone but I'm confident that it can be done and I hope to have something ready by August.
I'd like to encourage all software engineers to get involved in developing projects like this. Our profession provides us with a unique set of skills that make us a real asset to people who need empowerment and a real threat to the government who supress them. It's time we put a little skin in the game and help our fellow man. Iran is showing it can be done. People tired of being oppressed combined with technology support can be a powerful thing.
Let Iran be a lesson to all of us; let us all realize that we
are our brothers keeper. We can support and encourage freedom. Right from the PC sitting on our desk.