Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Reading Corner

The Los Angeles Times recently carried an interesting piece about an "Unlikely Forum for Iran's Youth" in an online book group, which is based here in my hometown of Santa Monica. The site, Goodreads, uses an appeal to peer-to-peer practices to "see what your friends are reading" and "get great book recommendations from people you know." As the Times explains, the Persian language groups are often devoted to politics and reach those still in Iran via the expatriate community in Southern California.

The Iranian government demands that private Internet service providers block access to MySpace, YouTube and several other social networking sites, and it arrests bloggers and online journalists who write unfavorably about the regime. Two feminists, Maryam Hosseinkhah and Jelveh Javaheri, are in Evin Prison in Tehran, charged with "putting out inaccurate news, stirring up public opinion and writing against the Islamic Republic" on the Internet.

But Goodreads seems to be mostly under Tehran's radar, possibly because it has a relatively small audience and is ostensibly focused on books rather than politics. Not all service providers filter out the site, and enterprising Iranians often find proxy servers or other online tools to circumvent restrictions.

Of course, this is exactly the kind of positive cultural activity, which serves both literacy and human rights, that would be banned by the revived version of DOPA.

Take that sexual predators!

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