Cyber Censorship Seen Tightening In Iran

This June 15,2009, file photo shows a photo of defeated Iranian presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, left bottom, next to a broken computer monitor in a room in a Tehran University dormitory after it was attacked by militia forces during riots in Tehran, Iran, in the early hours of Monday.
AP Photo
There are signs censorship by Iran's government is spreading and becoming more effective.

Tehran has removed opposition Web sites and tried to block or slow down social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante reported on The Early Show Thursday. But, Plante pointed out, information is apparently still flowing.

Iranian protestors and sympathizers have been relying on social networking sites to get information out about what's happening inside the country, Plante said.

The impact of Twitter, he added, hasn't been lost on the U.S. State Department, which called on the company to put off planned maintenance to enable that Web site to stay up.

"I wouldn't know a Twitter from a tweeter," said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, "but apparently, it is very important."

Plante reported many Iranian protestors find President Obama's careful endorsement of free speech as support of their efforts.

CBS News Middle East analyst Reza Asian said, "Poll after poll has shown that it's the people on the streets who are being encouraged by Barack Obama's attempts to reach out to them."

The official word from the White House, Plante reported, is that Washington's concerns about Iran, its nuclear ambitions and its support of terrorism won't change, no matter who's in charge there. But at the same time, he said, it's clear that Iran's current leaders believe the Obama administration is tilting toward their challengers.

As for the Internet, cyber experts say the Iranian government can't shut down all communications, because the government is using the same tools to monitor what opponents are saying.

CBS News cyberterrorism consultant Paul Kurtz observed, "It's exceptionally difficult for a government to lock down communications in this day and age with regard to technology adoption."

For more on Iranian protestors' high-tech anti-censorship tools, click here.