Iranian Ex-Pat: Michael Jackson Disrupts the Online Revolution

A few weeks ago, the Iranian “online revolution” seemed to be doing well. Since the presidential election on June 12, bloggers were culling together Twitter updates, Flickr photos and reports from Iranians on the ground at protests ripping across the country. CNN aired YouTube videos of the violence and Time magazine wrote about an especially moving one. Twitter and Facebook users were changing their avatars to display green colors and ribbons in support of the protestors. “Everything was perfect and one might ask, then, anything [go] wrong? Yes,” said Ali Emami, an Iranian ex-pat, musician and DJ. “Michael Jackson dies.”

Mr. Emami, a former software engineer for CBS Interactive and creator of indie artist social networking site, was speaking at New York Tech Meetup last night at FIT on 27th Street about the political uprising in his home country. “So, well, we couldn’t do anything about that one,” he explained about the King of Pop’s sudden death, which had most Twitterers recalling their favorite Thriller song, rather than passing around links about the ongoing election protests. But, of course, lots of other things went wrong, too, Mr. Emami said.

As The Wall Street Journal reported, the Iranian government created powerful tools to control their citizens’ Internet service, and has been monitoring individual users’ activities. They even shut down protesters’ service.

Mr. Emami said free Internet access must be considered a human rights issue. “As technologists, we have to think about ways, basically, to create solutions for Internet proliferation and wire tapping,” he said, challenging the room of software coders, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to join the movement by building new hardware and software to help Iranian protesters.

“We need to change so many things,” Mr. Emami said. “We need to change how we think. I mean, now, in this world, we are not Iran’s issue, or Iranian’s people issue is not just Iran and Sudan, it’s all of us. We live in a world where most of our friends are on Facebook and they belong to every country. Our Facebook friends, we don’t ask them what country they’re from, they’re just our friends.”

Iranian Ex-Pat: Michael Jackson Disrupts the Online Revolution