04/13/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Iran Social Media Facing Serious Obstacles

Citizen journalists faced serious obstacles in Iran today. News outlets are reporting that during the lead-up to the 31st anniversary of the Iranian revolution, the Internet was slowed and many social networking sites -- especially ones that chronicled last June's election protests -- were blocked.

As of now, the citizen media service Demotix is reporting, via Twitter:

From Tehran now: Google up, FBook & Twitter down. Proxies working but very very slow.

Last June's disputed election in Iran was chronicled assiduously by social networking systems, such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. The Internet played a large role in the reportage -- much of it produced by Iranians on the ground -- that reached the rest of the world.

Before today's protest, the government went to great lengths to hobble the Internet's ability to engender communication. The New York Times reports:

Thursday, the Iranian authorities on Wednesday drastically slowed Internet service in Iran and shut down text messaging services, and an official said that Gmail, the Google e-mail service, would be blocked.

This comes in the wake of last week's announcement that Iran's government was going to introduce its own national email service to compete with Western alternatives. According to the Guardian, 95% of Iran uses Google, Yahoo or Hotmail accounts. According to multiple sources, Google traffic has dropped off quickly since the announcement.

Nevertheless, hundreds of videos of the protests in Iran have been posted on YouTube. Organized opposition to Ahmadinejad, however, seems to have occurred on a small scale.

The Guardian talked to students who commented on the opposition's lack of organization:

Morteza, 23, a student, said: "It's not fair. The government has all the facilities to organise their own rallies but we've not been given permission to hold one protest since the election. They bus in basiji militia from other cities to Tehran and give them free food and transportation.

The BBC summed it up perhaps the best:

The government is not used to such protests and is infuriated by this, he adds, although opposition support appears not to be enough to overthrow the government...

US state department spokesman Philip Crowley said it appeared Iran had "attempted a near total information blockade" to deal with anti-government protesters.