The latest evidence that the Iranian government is exploiting Google, Yahoo and Skype to monitor dissident groups puts another chink in the armor of Web evangelists who see social media as an absolute good for democratic reformers. Today officials at the Internet security firm Comodo said they suspected the Iranian government fraudulently obtained digital certificates in order to impersonate websites such as Microsoft Live and monitor the actions of dissidents. "It does not escape notice that the domains targeted would be of greatest use to a government attempting surveillance of Internet use by dissident groups," said Comodo's vice president in a statement.

The malicious attack comes on the heels of Google's complaints that the Chinese government is slowing down its web services, a common, and often subtle, method of censoring free speech. Each new attack strengthens the argument that Web communication tools such as Twitter and Google represent a double-edged sword for dissidents under authoritarian rule. While the tools allow them to organize and propagate anti-government fervor, they also give a government broad surveillance powers over its people.
 
This skeptical view of social media is a favorite of The Net Delusion author Evgeny Morozov, whose work frequently appears in Foreign Policy and The Wall Street Journal. One of his speeches on the "myth of the techno-utopia" was recently illustrated in a neat Web video using a white board and cartoon rats: