Posts Tagged ‘North Africa’

SOPA SCHMOPA: Iran Tries to Strangle the Internet to Death

January 6th, 2012 01:30 admin View Comments

If you think anti-piracy legislation like SOPA and Spain’s so-called Sinde law are as far-reaching as it gets, you obviously don’t live in Tehran. Well aware of the disruptive threat to its power posed by the Internet, the Iranian government is beginning to implement a plan that would get rid of it all together.

Web censorship in the Islamic republic is nothing new, but this latest initiative cranks things up quite a few notches and paves the way for a government-approved domestic intranet that will be completely cut off from the public World Wide Web we all know and love. Iranians are already reporting painfully slow Internet connections and difficulty accessing certain sites or using VPNs, the Wall Street Journal reports. Soon, Internet cafes in the country will be required to videotape all Web users and gather personal information about them.

The Iranian government is, of course, no stranger to the Internet’s irritating ability to help citizens organize, communicate and document what’s going on around them, things that were much more easily controlled in the pre-Web media landscape. It was via the Web and social media that activists planned and publicized protests about the outcome of the country’s 2009 election. Since then, the government has watched as Web-fueled protests have broken out across the Middle East and North Africa, toppling a few regimes along the way.

If the world felt like a safer place to autocratic rulers before the Internet came around and ruined everything, what better solution is there than to just strangle the darn thing to death?

That appears to be what the Iranian government is going for. This week, the government began testing a closed, domestic intranet that “will insulate its citizens from Western ideology and un-Islamic culture, and eventually replace the Internet,” the Journal reported. The end result would be not unlike the situation in North Korea, where the Internet as we know it is not accessible to most of the public, much of which is unaware it exists.

The recent clampdown begins just a few months ahead of the country’s next parliamentary elections, which are already a source of controversy and protest.

Will this plan work? Unlike the citizens of North Korea, Iranians are already accustomed to having access to the Internet, even if it is limited and monitored. Businesses rely on it just like they do anywhere else, so shutting it down could add more economic strain to a society already facing sanctions from the West.

Source: SOPA SCHMOPA: Iran Tries to Strangle the Internet to Death

BreakingNews Goes International with New UK Team

November 17th, 2011 11:30 admin View Comments

breakingnews150150.jpgBreakingNews, the team of curators behind the @BreakingNews Twitter account and Breaking News Facebook page, has announced today that it’s going international. The U.K. MSN homepage now features a BreakingNews widget, and the new London-based arm of the team has launched a @BreakingNewsUK Twitter account.

The BreakingNews team manages a round-the-clock firehose of the day’s biggest stories using a deft mix of automatic and manual curation tools. What results is a feed of the major headlines from around the world right as they happen. The full feeds are available on and mobile apps for iPhone, Android and Windows Phone 7, while the Twitter feeds offer a tighter stream of the world’s top stories.

When we first covered BreakingNews, the Twitter account had a little over 800,000 followers. It’s over 3,275,000 now, and the startup team is now under the arm of MSNBC’s digital network. Using Twitter analytics, BreakingNews determined that the U.K. was the place to go next. About 350,000 people in the U.K. follow the main @BreakingNews account already, its biggest audience outside the U.S.

“From the riots to the News of the World scandal, the U.K. has experienced a tremendous amount of breaking news this year,” says Cory Bergman, director of BreakingNews. “Our London team will help strengthen BreakingNews’ overall global coverage, including the European debt crisis and continuing unrest in the Middle East and North Africa.”


BreakingNews watches the Twitter accounts of news organizations and whitelists the ones they find reliable. When those sources include #breaking or #breakingnews in a tweet, it tips off the BreakingNews editors. Over 160 organizations, including ABC News and Huffington Post, currently participate. Users of can also tip the editors by submitting links.

U.K. residents will find the BreakingNews widget on, and you can follow the brand new @BreakingNewsUK Twitter account.

Do you follow @BreakingNews on Twitter?

Source: BreakingNews Goes International with New UK Team

Internet Up For Nobel Peace Prize Again, Let’s Hope It Wins This Time

March 1st, 2011 03:49 admin View Comments

INTERNETphoto © 2008 Julian Burgess | more info (via: Wylio)The Internet, which was nominated but lost to Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo last year, is up for the Nobel Peace Prize again this year. This year’s 241 nominations surpassed last year’s 237 and included the controversial site WikiLeaks, Russian human rights group Memorial, the European Union, and African human rights activist Sima Samar.

Past winners, members of international parliaments and law and poli-sci professors submit the nominations, but the actual winners are decided by the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s five member panel. And while last year an Internet win may have seemed like a longshot, this year it has paid enough dues for a nod.

There’s a lot of terrible stuff generated online, granted, but in my opinion the Internet really did more good than harm this year. Any way you slice it, Twitter and Facebook are inspiring people in the Middle East and North Africa to topple decades-old dictatorships, and the wave of revolutions happening in the region looks like it’s just getting started. This era of human communication is just getting started.

In Egypt, where weeks ago former dictator Hosni Mubarak resorted to shutting down Internet connectivity to keep the opposition from organizing, the post-Mubarak cabinet has now opened an official FB page and an official Youtube channel in attempt to engage Internet savvy youth. Said one Egyptian observer, “When it comes to tech, this revolution has done to the Egyptian government what Obama’s social media campaign did to the American government.”

And while Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks also left a worldwide mark this year, I would argue that the site, with its emphasis on openness and transparency in government, falls under the umbrella of Internet too, so a win for the Internet would kill two birds with one prize.

The winner (or winners) will be announced in October, and will receive 10 million Swedish Crowns ($1.5 million dollars).  Which begs the question, “So if the Internet did win, who would accept the prize?” A Cisco Router? Al Gore? Well, my pick would be that little Egyptian girl named Facebook.

Alexia Tsotsis@alexia
Alexia Tsotsis

The Internet should win the Nobel Peace Prize this year.

February 19, 2011 10:32 pm via Seesmic DesktopRetweetReply

Source: Internet Up For Nobel Peace Prize Again, Let’s Hope It Wins This Time

What Makes @ACarvin Tweet? (TCTV)

February 28th, 2011 02:14 admin View Comments

The recent compounded protests and revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa have had the unintended side effect of highlighting information nodes/elites like @Ghonim and @Sultanalqassemi, people who electively become human routers of related information on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks.

NPR’s Senior Strategist Andy Carvin has been one of the most prominent Western information routers, spending 15-17 hours a day tweeting out news about the region, getting rate limited and subsequently whitelisted by Twitter, and at one point becoming so synonymous with #Egypt that someone anonymously sent him a shirt “I followed @ACarvin before #Egypt did.”

I sat down on Sunday morning to talk to Carvin about why he’s decided to devote his tweet stream to this new form of curation, what his process was for the filtering and repackaging of information, and what digital tools exist or could exist to make it easier for people like Carvin to continue to refine the closest we’ve come to the ideal form of Twitter journalism.

You can watch the entire interview (please get past my  beginning awkwardness) above.

Source: What Makes @ACarvin Tweet? (TCTV)

Middle East Internet Scorecard

February 22nd, 2011 02:00 admin View Comments


sturgeon writes “With the escalating violence and frequent reports of phone and Internet blockages across the Middle East and North Africa, it’s getting hard to keep track of what is happening where. Arbor released a new report and graphic scorecard of Internet censorship in the region.”

Source: Middle East Internet Scorecard

To Celebrate The #Jan25 Revolution, Egyptian Names His Firstborn “Facebook”

February 19th, 2011 02:58 admin View Comments

Cultural relativity is an amazing thing. While American parents worry about their kids being on Facebook, Egyptian parents are naming their kids “Facebook,” to commemorate the events surrounding the #Jan25 revolution.

According to Al-Ahram (“The New York Times of Egypt”) a man in his twenties named has christened his first born daughter Facebook in tribute to the role the social media service played in organizing the protests in Tahrir Square and beyond.

Helmed by now-famous Googler Wael Ghonim, the “We Are Khaled Said” Facebook page showed up within 5 days of Said’s death in June and served as a hub for dissidence against Egyptian police brutality as well as a way to disseminate logistical information about the escalating anti-government protests until Mubarak’s resignation. Other activist pages like one actually called “Tahrir Square” cropped up shortly afterward.


A New Day

Man Names His Newborn Girl Facebook

A young man in his twenties wanted to express his gratitude about the victories the youth of 25th of January have achieved and chose to express it in the form of naming his firstborn girl “Facebook” Jamal Ibrahim (his name.) The girl’s family, friends, and neighbors in the Ibrahimya region gathered around the new born to express their continuing support for the revolution that started on Facebook. “Facebook” received many gifts from the youth who were overjoyed by her arrival and the new name. A name [Facebook] that shocked the entire world.

There are five million Facebook users in Egypt, more so than any other country in the Middle East/North Africa region. Facebook itself has reported an increase in Egyptian users in the past month, with 32,000 Facebook groups and 14,000 pages created in the two weeks after January 25th.

While the baby girl could just have easily been called “YouTube,” “Twitter” “Google” or even “Cellphone Camera,” it seems like Facebook has become the umbrella symbol for how social media can spread the message of freedom. There are countless manefestation of this, the above graffiti in Cairo, “Thank you Facebook” protest sign, and Wael Ghonim himself personally expressing his gratitude to Mark Zuckerberg on CNN.

I’m hearing that the temporary military government has begun using Facebook to reach out to Egyptian youth, even creating a Facebook Fan Page page (here). The Ministry of Interior, in attempt to repair the image of the state police, has set up multiple pages. And while my guess is that being a locus of political uprisings wasn’t the original intent of the American college campus-based social network, somewhere Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has got to be secretly proud.

The Internet as a whole should win the Nobel Peace Prize this year for all it’s done for democracy in the MENA region, but let’s not let this naming kids after websites get out of hand. I’d hate for little “Facebook” to have to share a classroom with a little “AOL,” or worse a little “Yahoo.” Even though you have to admit, a girl named “Quora” would be kind of pretty.

Jokes aside, click here for an excellent video of how young activists in Cairo documented the Egyptian protests despite the Internet blocks.

Thanks: Rami Taibah

Translation help: Mohamed El-ZohairyFadi AndrausOm z and Wael Al-Sallami

Source: To Celebrate The #Jan25 Revolution, Egyptian Names His Firstborn “Facebook”

‘The Daily Show’ Takes On The Role Of Social Media In The Egyptian Uprising

January 28th, 2011 01:35 admin View Comments

At this point most of us are feeling pretty cool about ourselves for at least retweeting the #Twitterrevolution, first in Tunisia and now in Egypt. But only when us Internerds watch mainstream television do we realize that both the Bush administration and the Obama administration are trying to take credit (or garner hype) for events which may very well irrevocably change the landscape of North Africa and the Middle East and were, at least initially, mediated through Facebook and Twitter.

Of course The Daily Show host Jon Stewart takes a skeptical Gladwellian view to the entire situation, “If two speeches and a social media site is all we needed to spread democracy why did we invade Iraq, why didn’t we just I don’t know poke them.”

He brings on The Daily Show correspondent and “Senior Tweet Analyst” Samantha Bee to defend the opinion that social media played the biggest role in the protests as opposed to “Team Local Conditions,” represented by the amazing Aasif Mandvi. Bee’s defense, “Duh @jon stewart this is something you’d know if your oversized old person phone got Twitter #burn.”

On a more serious note: When they were younger than I am now, my parents were witness to a student movement that eventually toppled a dictatorship in Greece through the radio. Communication in its sundry and consistently evolving forms is and always has been as powerful a utility as electricity and running water, and it’s important that we protect it as such no matter what its incarnation.

You can find the full video (which you should watch a couple of times) here.

Source: ‘The Daily Show’ Takes On The Role Of Social Media In The Egyptian Uprising

The Biggest Gilt/Groupon Knockoff Network You’ve Never Heard Of (TCTV)

December 3rd, 2010 12:41 admin View Comments

We all know that the early success and insta-revenues of companies like Gilt Group and Groupon have inspired more clones than Jango Fett. But while profitable and growing, my impression was that most of them are one-off rounding errors compared to Groupon’s swelling revenue estimates – numbers that seem to go up in the press by $100 million every time they don’t have any real news on this story.

So imagine my surprise when I learned that Klaus Hommels was running a network of nine Gilt Group-style and seven Groupon-style companies that together makes up the third largest player in the market. The Gilt Group-esque network, called Globalsquare AG, started in less than two years ago and has a $400 million revenue run rate; the Groupon-ish network, called Group Buying Global AG, was layered on top of it and already has a $200 million revenue run rate– in less than six months.

Hommels says that his group buying companies are the largest players in terms of revenue in Australia, Brazil, Turkey, Switzerland, and top two or three in the other geographies. Collectively, they have over five million members with fifty active cities. New cities are coming online each week.

The Gilt-like sites include Beyond the Rack in Canada, Brandsclub in Brazil, Brandsclub in Mexico, Markafoni in Turkey, FashionFriends in Switzerland, Sukar in the Middle East and North Africa, KupiVIP in Russia, Fashion-and-You in India and BrandsExclusive in Australia. The group buying sites include ClickOn in Brazil, Spreets in Australia, Deals-and-You in India, Grupfoni in Turkey, Clickonero in Mexico and Argentina, Cobone in Middle East and North Africa and DeinDeal in Switzerland.

Hommels is one of the best known angel investors in Europe having invested in Facebook, Skype, Spotify, Stardoll and many other companies. But the growth of these sites’ revenues is something even he hasn’t seen before, as we discuss in the video below.

The structure is a lot different than Gilt or Groupon. Hommels has a Swiss holding company that handles the technology backend and other administrative duties, for the 18 on-the-ground sites. Those sites in turn are each run as independent companies run by meticulously recruited local entrepreneurs. Hommels argues it’s the best of both worlds: They get the professionalism, resources and scale benefits of being a big global company, not to mention shared best practices on types of promotions that work. But each entrepreneur is still incentivized to grow their business, because it’s still their business. Keeping that fire lit is a bigger challenge when a company like Groupon buys you outright, and may be even greater if those global clone sites become a tiny part of gigantic Google.

Video is below.

Source: The Biggest Gilt/Groupon Knockoff Network You’ve Never Heard Of (TCTV)

Intel Backs Three Startups From The Middle East: Nymgo, Jeeran, ShooFeeTV

October 27th, 2010 10:32 admin View Comments

Intel’s investment arm, Intel Capital, announced three new investments at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa today.

The three startups that have received fresh capital from the investment organization are UK/Lebanon based Nymgo (which delivers cheap VoIP telephony services), Jordan-based Jeeran (social networking site) and ShooFeeTV (which operates a Web-based entertainment guide).

The size of the three investments were not disclosed, but I understand the investment comes from Intel’s $50 million Middle East and Turkey Fund.

For Jeeran and ShooFeeTV, this is actually the second financial boost provided by Intel Capital – both were originally funded in May 2009.

The investment in Nymgo, means Intel Capital firm has now expanded its portfolio in the ME region to a total of eight companies.

Nymgo launched in December 2008 and offers low-cost VoIP calling services. With over two million downloads, Nymgo says it serves customers in over 200 countries worldwide. Since its creation, Nymgo claims to have served over 300 million minutes of international calls.

With Intel’s help, Nymgo says it intends to accelerate infrastructure deployment, operations enhancement and global marketing.

Source: Intel Backs Three Startups From The Middle East: Nymgo, Jeeran, ShooFeeTV

A Toothy Bird With a 17-Foot Wingspan Once Ruled the Air

September 16th, 2010 09:52 admin View Comments

big-birdHere’s a new creature for the record books. In Chile, paleontologists have found the fossilized remains of a huge, toothy bird whose wingspan stretched 17 feet across. That means the bird, Pelagornis chilensis or “huge pseudoteeth,” had the longest wingspan ever recorded–a wingspan that was about as long as a giraffe is high.

This newly named species belongs to a group known as pelagornithids, birds that had bony tooth-like projections and long beaks. The well-preserved fossil that researchers turned up belonged to a bird that weighed about 64 pounds and had relatively light, thin-walled bones, according to the description published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. It cruised the skies between 5 and 10 million years ago.

big-bird-2The enormous wingspan gave P. chilensis certain advantages, like the ability to travel long distances and reach areas of the open ocean thick with potential prey. The researchers think it feasted on fish and squid, and may have trolled its hunting grounds with its lower beak skimming the water until its teeth could clamp down on a wriggling meal. But lead researcher Gerald Mayr says that a 17-foot wingspan is probably close to the maximum for a flying bird.

“There are a number of drawbacks if you become so large,” he added. Chicks would have to be raised over a long period of time, making them more prone to predation. “Moreover,” he added, “bird feathers are quite heavy, so very large birds may have become too heavy.” [Discovery News]

Mayr notes that these giants of the sky were “true birds,” not winged reptiles like the pterosaurs of the Jurassic era. He also seems a bit jealous of our early hominid ancestors, who may have caught a glimpse of P. chilensis in the flesh. Says Mayr:

“Their last representatives may have coexisted with the earliest humans in North Africa…. Bird watching in Chile would be thrilling if birds with more than 5-meter wingspans and huge pseudo-teeth were still alive.” [press release]

Images: Forschungsinstitut Senckenberg / S. Tränkner; Carlos Anzures

Source: A Toothy Bird With a 17-Foot Wingspan Once Ruled the Air