Cracking down on Iranians abroad

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It started with Internet and phone network blackouts during the mass protests, but Iran's regime has expanded its virtual crackdown on dissidents to those living outside its borders.

While the protests following Iran's June election put Facebook and Twitter to use for a legitimate social good, the regime's reaction have shown what a tangled and dangerous World Wide Web we have woven.

From the beginning, intelligence forces used phone and web sources to track down dissidents within Iran . If you were following the Tweets then, you'll know that many outside the country turned their social networking profiles green in solidarity and changed their settings to Tehran to try to confuse intelligence forces.

But showing support online or attending protests abroad still got Iranians living outside of the country in trouble, according to the Wall Street Journal. While an Iranian official obviously denies it, the WSJ collected a number of similar stories of family members of people protesting abroad being arrested in Iran, of threatening e-mails, of forced Facebook and e-mail searches when Iranians visited the country.

The WSJ compares this situation to Iran's Islamic revolution 30 years ago, which expats supported and gave global legitimacy to. Today the Internet has facilitated both support for the movement and the reaction to it.

The situation makes me think about how small and interconnected our world has become. Information, economics, terrorism, war and peace, natural resources are all global issues. Much has to be dealt with at a local level, but I wish there would be a stronger body of international democracy. Pope Benedict called for an international economic body with teeth in his social encyclical, "Caritas en Veritate," and I'm sure we could use more than that.

I hardly expect that to happen, but at least those of us with freedom can support others fighting for democracy abroad.

(Photo from protest in Canada)