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Twitter Undermines Hugo Chavez's Media Takeover

As we learned last summer in Iran, whenever a dictatorial regime senses trouble in Totalitarianville, one of the first things it does is tighten its grip on the media. And whenever the thick walls of censorship go up, Twitter is there to slip through the cracks.

Case in point: Venezuela, where we may be witnessing the signs of an Iran-like brouhaha. With its economy floundering, crime rates skyrocketing, and civil unrest escalating, Venezuela isn't exactly the happiest place on Earth these days. In the face of this discontent, President Hugo Chavez has decided to step up his propaganda game and has unleashed a major campaign to suppress any oppositional media outlets. When five cable stations recently refused to broadcast one of his speeches, Chavez ordered them to shut down operations, a decree that set off a firestorm of protests, police intervention, and the eventual death of two student dissidents.

The catalyst behind most of these protests is, of course, Twitter, which anti-Chavez activists have used to organize demonstrations and to spread their cause internationally. Dissidents have also taken to Facebook, where a group titled "Chavez esta PONCHAO!" ("Chavez, you struck out!") is already 80,000 members strong. Chavez, not surprisingly, has undertaken efforts to squash this social media mini-revolution, going so far as to equate Twitter, the Internet, and text-messaging (?) with "terrorism". As FOX News reports, Chavez has promised a "radical" response to the Twitter-fueled uprising, and has already "launched an army of Twitter users to bring down online networks and try to infiltrate student groups."

Similar winds of discontent blew through the country in 2007 when Chavez called for opposition station RCTV to be shut down. That, however, was before the Iranian experience, and before Twitter blossomed into the global conduit for information and political solidarity that it is today. Internet analysts, drawing obvious Iranian parallels, are optimistic that Twitter and other forms of social media can lead to the same kind of mobilization and awareness that it did last summer. For the sake of a free Venezuela and global media, we certainly hope so, too. [From: FOX News; via: BusinessInsider]

Tags: FreeSpeech, hugochavez, iran, media, protests, top, Top Searches, TopSearches, twitter, venezuela