The green-clad Iranian activists who skirted government censorship and organized protests via Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube may not know it, but they owe a debt of gratitude to the yellow-shirted spiritual practitioners infamous for angering China’s antireligious leadership. As protesters used the Internet to challenge the Islamic government of Iran, The New Republic (Sept. 9, 2009) reports, “many of their missives were being guided and guarded by 50 Falun Gong programmers spread out across the United States.”
After the Falun Gong staged a silent protest outside Communist Party of China headquarters in 1999, the Chinese government banned the group and went so far as to imprison and torture its members. In response, the group got Internet-savvy, finding that clandestine messages were one of the only ways it could connect with its inner-peace-seeking members. Since then, the group has become a world leader in censorship-skirting technology.
“The Falun Gong has proselytized its anticensorship software with greater fervor than its spiritual practices,” The New Republic reports. The group’s flagship software, known as Freegate, was designed to sneak messages past Chinese censors and conceal the users’ identities. Due to its overwhelming popularity the world over, the Farsi version of Freegate, introduced in 2008, has already crashed the Falun Gong servers twice. As long as the group’s technology remains innovative, though, it can continue to amplify the voices of activists everywhere.