One of the world’s most hardline leaders may soon lose his position as the President of Iran thanks to the increasing level of free public expression, much of which appears to be taking place on Facebook. Only three weeks ago I wrote about Iran blocking Facebook, but within days the site was back up and running. Mirhossein Mousavi, the opposition candidate, and former Prime Minister, has experienced tremendous growth in his Facebook Page from around 5,000 fans just a few weeks ago to almost 40,000 as of today.
While Facebook may not be the primary source of opposition campaigns, it has become an excellent platform for discussion among what is a growing number of Iranian Facebook users. There have been a number of occasions when Facebook access was banned within the country but it appears that freedom of speech is gaining momentum after being suppressed by the Amhmandinejad regime. While both parties are claiming victory, there is a good chance that Ahmadinejad could be out which could help relationships with Western nations.
Obama and others aren’t ready to announce their support of the still unconfirmed new President. Instead, Obama stated today (according to Reuters) that he hopes debate taking place within Iran will “help the two countries engage ‘in new ways.’” The Jerusalem Post, a relatively conservative Israeli news organization, already has an article stating that a “Mousavi win wouldn’t stop nuke drive”. So perhaps Facebook can’t create peace in the Middle East in a few months but it can clearly serve as a platform for open dialogue which is at least encouraging.
Iranians are lining up to vote in droves with an expected 70 percent turnout, a number the United States could only dream of (the 2008 U.S. election obtained a 56.8 percent turnout). The existing President has generated a substantial amount of tension with the U.S. and a new leader would be more than welcomed. Facebook is known as an effective tool for spreading democracy around the world, and this most recent election highlights that.
We’ll have to await the final results but it’s clear that Facebook continues to expand it’s impact in politics around the globe, not just domestically.
Facebook has notified us about the presence of a voting counter on all Iranian users’ homepage. I’ve embedded the image below. Barry Schnitt of Facebook has provided the following statement: “Facebook’s features for connecting and communicating naturally support political discussions and organizing. We think the democratic process is important so we’re making special efforts to foster participation. We’ve done this in the US and now in Iran. We hope to do the same thing for more elections going forward.”
The translated version of the message below states “Today is Election Day in Iran” with an “I voted” button which increments the counter and lets a user post a message to their feed which indicates they voted and provides the “vote” graphic as an attachment.