Moldova's twitter demonstrations

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LISA MULLINS: Borzou mentioned Iranian authorities' fear of a so-called color revolution. Well, here's another country where the government has concerns about its grip on power in the face of street protests, Moldova. Moldova is not a place we hear a lot about, so here are some facts: It's a land-locked country in Eastern Europe. It's located just between Romania and Ukraine. Moldova was part of the Soviet Union until it gained independence from the USSR in 1991. It is Europe's poorest country. And this week, thousands of Moldovans have been protesting the results of parliamentary elections, which they say were rigged. Those elections were declared a victory for the ruling Communist party. Evgeny Morozov has written an article for Foreign Policy magazine that he calls ?Moldova's Twitter Revolution?. He says Moldovan protestors have been using the micro-blogging website Twitter to organize their rallies ? in a similar way the protestors in places such as the Philippines and Ukraine used text messaging.

EVGENY MOROZOV: In Ukraine we saw text messaging being used very actively by all sorts of civil society organizations ? NGOs, political parties ?to raise awareness about the protest issue happening in the main public square in Kiev. Another interesting example which I can probably give you here was the failure of technology to actually lead to any significant revolution in Ukraine's neighboring country Belarus ? where authorities have learned their lessons from the Philippines and Ukraine and some other countries, and they actually decided to turn off cell phone coverage at the major public square on the eve of the election in 2006. So authorities are also learning their lessons ? and yes, we've seen also this time in Moldova, what happened is that after, you know, a very brief period the technology and cell phone coverage and wi-fi networks were available in the central square in Chişinău. It was later turned off, and it had systematically, particularly in certain areas it was turned off. And people who were trying to post the updates on Twitter, which were their blogs, they couldn't do it just because the technology wasn't there. So I think it reveals that authorities are also learning their lessons, doing their homework, and essentially learning how to manipulate the technology to stay in power.

MULLINS: That's right. So it can work both ways. It can work to the benefit of those trying to gather to protest government action; it can also work on the part of the government which can use technology of its own to, for instance, block cell phones in a particular square where people might be gathering?

MOROZOV: Yes. And not only to block, but also to send messages proactively on behalf of the government, urging them to stay at home and not to go out because bloodshed might ensue. And that actually happened in Belarus recently and that happened in a few other countries. So the governments are not only blocking technology, they are also very actively in many cases, relying on the schools to deliver their own messages.

MULLINS: One final question, Evgeny, and I'm asking you this because I know that you're writing a book about the impact of the internet on global politics. What about the impact in a place like this? Because we know that opposition politicians in Moldova who believe that the election was rigged ? that's what this is all about ? have had to backtrack. They have denounced the violence of yesterday. They have called off any further protests. So it seems as if Twitter, Facebook, text messaging might be effective in getting people to show up to protest, but maybe not so much in galvanizing people toward one political or ideological message in organizing?

MOROZOV: Uh-huh. Uh-huh. That's ? I would say it's true. What we are also seeing with the use of technology around the world is it's certainly making it much easier for the centralized movement to, you know, emerge and then to push for action. And again, it's definitely stealing some authority from the government. So the government of course feels totally powerless whenever it comes to this new empowering technology. It's their chip to use which has a tremendous effect, like Twitter, you know, like Facebook and others. The problem is that while the government is losing its authority and is losing some of its power in controlling this mvement, we see that other groups which may be actually worse than the government and which actually be much more radical and authoritarian actually emerging to replace some of the powers that the government has lost.

MULLINS: Well, thank you. Evgeny Morozov, who is a fellow at the Open Society Institute in New York. He also has a blog called ?Net Effect?. That's part of Foreign Policy magazine. You can find a link on our website, Evgeny, thank you very much.

MOROZOV: Thank you so much.