Look at the protest marches in Iran's capital — the largest since the 1979 revolution — and you see a real contribution of the West to democracy around the world: information technology.
That technology makes it nearly impossible for a repressive regime to control people's access to information. People are making use of cell phone calls, text messages, e-mails and social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.
These not only are providing the outside world with information, they're allowing Iranians to communicate with each other and to organize dissent.
The world first saw the effect of Western communication technology in the revolutions in the Soviet-bloc countries of Central and Eastern Europe at the end of the 1980s.
In Iran, a relatively prosperous and highly computer-literate society, the government has blocked Web sites (including Twitter.com), and cell phone service has been intermittent. But people have been incredibly enterprising.
San Francisco-based Twitter has been particularly censorship-resistant because it is an open system. Multiple paths can read and write the Twitter data stream. Twitter users can send text messages (limited to 140 characters) to unlimited numbers of cell phones.
Twitterers post messages with the term "#IranElection," so people can easily follow the stream.
Industry observers have been wondering how Twitter's open system will ever make money, but its openness and simplicity clearly are a virtue when doing battle with repressive regimes.
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