Green Room

Some thoughts on Twitter in Tehran

posted at 4:02 pm on June 14, 2009 by

As AP has noted, events in Iran are developing far faster than traditional media can report it, and the information overflow is being diverted directly to microblogging service Twitter. A few observations on why Twitter’s been so effective and what its rise really means:

  • There is precedence for Twitter’s news gathering power. During the Mumbai terrorist attacks, the best source of news was Twitter, by far, not only because it was a source of new information from text-messaging observers on the ground, but also because those watching events as they unfolded on the panoply of television and radio stations could pass along breaking news uncovered by traditional news media outlets. It was the place where social media and the Old Media intersected, and it was immensely effective at getting information out.
  • Twitter’s microblogs can’t easily be banned since they can be updated on sites other than Twitter. If the Iranian Government wants to shut down Twitter like it’s shut down a whole host of other news sources, it’s going to have to shut down the Internet entirely. One feature that makes Twitter so elusive for government authorities is that even if you shut down “Twitter.com,” that doesn’t prevent other partner services from sending and receiving information from the service. Here are some examples. It’s like your Dad telling you to stop talking to one of your friends and circumventing him by passing notes back and forth through a third friend. Iran is going to have a hard time preventing similar transmissions unless it completely shuts down the Iranian Web. And maybe not even then.
  • For purposes of speed, it’s easier to pool everyone’s information than for one person to seek it out and report. WikiNews was in many ways a precursor to Twitter, but rather than using raw collaboration to reform the news format, WikiNews conformed their collaborations to the traditional this-is-a-news-article paradigm. There is and will still be a place for news gatherers and organizers. But this latest iteration of rapid reporting, like Twitter, will be a decentralized one.
  • There is a risk of inaccurate reports, both unintentional and intentional. 140 characters is not a lot of space to fully convey a thought, let alone robustly and accurately describe a harrowing situation. Moreover, because many Twitter users are anonymous, there’s no firm way of establishing that they 1.) are who they say they are, 2.) are where they claim to be, or 3.) are seeing what they claim to be seeing. Some Tweets, regardless of the topic, are essentially a game of telephone, with important details lost as users intercede and characters are subtracted. Photographic and video evidence is one way of confirming facts asserted in Tweets, and the proliferation of consumer digital media equipment has made such confirmerations increasingly easy. But not every Tweet can be confirmed, at least not immediately. If Twitter does take off as a news platform, the next step for foes of open government will be misinformation, both to mislead and discredit. Caveat emptor.
  • Thank you, free enterprise. The government didn’t make cameras, camera phones, camcorders, and other digital equipment affordable to the masses. The private sector built Twitter, YouTube, and TwitPic. It’s freedom that’s making freedom possible in Iran, despite the Administration’s apparent willingness to legitimate the Ahmadinejad government, should it survive. If the Iran regime falls, it won’t be negotiations that did it, but a freedom seeking people using the tools of freedom.

With that, I kick it over to the other Green Room commentators for their thoughts.

Updates: I’m going to add media to this post as I come across it. If you see anything on Twitter or elsewhere, note it in the comments. Or, Twitter it. I might just see it there.

LesHemmings RT : I am accessing twitter from 148.233.239.24 Port:80 in tehran. you can avoid gov filters from here.pls RT #Iranelection

A list of Iran Election-related news.

corinnebailey : RT  Tonight, we are all Iranians. You deserve a better treatment than us at Tiananmen 20 years ago. #IranElection

Michael Totten has video of Iranian police running away from demonstrators.

Recently in the Green Room:

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

I am not sure if Iranians know what they really want. Though this oversimplifies, in the 70′s they tore their country apart because the Shaw was liberalizing, and westernizing, their laws including allowing women to not wear a hijab. Today at least one of the major motivations for discontent is the sexist laws and institutions in the govt, including the requirement to wear a hijab.

I will be last to defend the slimy 12′ver that leads Iran, but we don’t really know the mind of the majority. Though a 2/3 majority win for Mo is clearly a fabrication, he may well have won a national majority. A lot of people support him and his way of thinking; moreover, Mousavi was little apart from the existing regime in the issues that matter to the West. The idea of a positive, or even neutral partner in Iran seems like a pipe dream.

Twitter has really shown its power here. I can’t keep my eyes off twitterfall.

Hochmeister on June 14, 2009 at 5:52 PM

i am shocked and awed by the sheer volume and tenacity of the tweets coming out of tehran.

long live the new media!

homesickamerican on June 14, 2009 at 6:18 PM

Thank GOD…. pushed that Palin thing off the front page…

/sarc

Ugly on June 14, 2009 at 6:27 PM

Welcome to your preview of the 2012 election.

SDSquint on June 14, 2009 at 6:27 PM

Not sure if I want to base my opinions on stuff from Twitter, but I suppose it’s all there is in Iran.

jeanie on June 14, 2009 at 6:34 PM

People need to not care too much about this. This is like Hitler rigging an election against Ernst Röhm and the SA rioting in the streets. That’s all this is. In short order, things will simmer down.

keep the change on June 14, 2009 at 6:37 PM

Twitter is the Yahoo of next week’s generation.

I don’t get it, but then, I don’t text. I think you need to do that in order to tweet.

/I feel gay just typing that

Ugly on June 14, 2009 at 6:43 PM

The achilles heel of Twitter is that it is like Facebook and Youtube. They all lose huge amounts of money every year, surviving only on the good graces of venture capitalists who always think they can monetize something just because it is popular. The problem is that is it popular mostly because it is free. Facebook loses about 100 million a year and Youtube loses about 500 million per year.

Youtube is going the way of hulu in order to stop the bleeding, that means the You in youtube will be downplayed in favor of commercial content submitted by professionals. Advertisers have told youtube they don’t like being associated with amateur produced videos. But as for Twitter or Facebook, social networking is not very profitable for providers. In fact, there is no money in it at all.

keep the change on June 14, 2009 at 6:46 PM

But as for Twitter or Facebook, social networking is not very profitable for providers. In fact, there is no money in it at all.

keep the change on June 14, 2009 at 6:46 PM

There’s always money in death (not for the overly emotional)

Ugly on June 14, 2009 at 6:50 PM

A new hash tag has started on twitter … #iranrevolution

crosspatch on June 14, 2009 at 6:52 PM

Twitter killed CNN. :D

Half the blogs on the ScoopThis.Org front page feature information passed on through Twitter.

Whatever works.

SCOOPTHIScarlos on June 14, 2009 at 6:57 PM

Third-hand report from a network operator in Tehran:

SMS is down since friday for all three cell operators. In the areas that riot is taken place, cell phones are not working. Outgoing calls to certain countries are blocked. DCI, the organization in charge of internet connectivity, that provides internet transit for local isps has taken down 80% of its uplink connectivity and currently only a few peers (TTNET as far as I know) are active.

Quote from another network operator examining Internet connectivity data:

We examined yesterday’s BGP advertisement patterns for evidence of transit change, outage and instability (the outage and instability pattern was fairly obvious, but certainly didn’t look like a natural disaster). Anyway, we did notice a rather unmistakeable transit shift to TTNet for all paths inbound to 12880 (DCI) the primary transit provider

This is technical stuff that people who aren’t network engineers are likely to be able to follow much of, but here you go:

http://www.renesys.com/blog/2009/06/strange-changes-in-iranian-int.shtml

crosspatch on June 14, 2009 at 6:57 PM

Well, twitter has shown it’s value to me at least. I may restart an account….but I’m not one of these maroons that will post crap like “ok, getting an orange from the fridge now”…….”ok, peeling the orange now”……..”dang, it’s dried up! WTF ROFLCOPTERS”

On Iran, it’s nice (to me at least) to see dinnerjacket have troubles, but he hardly matters anyway. It’s the supreme leader that needs his ass kicked, and the people need to decide what exactly is it they want…freedom, or like we’re moving toward; a pretend sort of freedom where we say we’re free but get regulated to death, or say they’re free but run around like a bunch of nuts being radical islamists.

They need to take a breather and think.

Spiritk9 on June 14, 2009 at 8:32 PM

Just a comment on the videos. I am totally in awe. Iranians giving the Ayatollahs hell to pay, made my day completely.

elclynn on June 14, 2009 at 9:46 PM

Ugly on June 14, 2009 at 6:27 PM
Great referral. Thanks. I agree we should never forget. Unfortunately, too many are, especially our commander in chief.

Bambi on June 14, 2009 at 10:50 PM

Mark my words… This WILL end up being an issue in 2010 and 2012. Obama cannot run away from his words in Cairo and anyone who thinks his mushy, flowery language wasn’t interpreted as a signal by the mullahs and Ahmadinijad, is fooling themselves.

The article down the row at Hot Air on CNN video and the students in Iran is really what should get you worried. If they get neutralized in a brutal fashion, it will kill one of the best hopes we have for toppling the government from inside the country.

Then again, I doubt anyone expected Obama had the moxie to do anything here that would have changed this situation for the better, in advance. After all, CIA officers are now getting lawyers to protect them against future investigations by Congress. That’s just messed up.

I mentioned on my blog that this story was worth watching closely and I got several hundred hits per day over the weekend, so people are definitely wanting information out there and they know the mainstream media outlets aren’t giving it to them.

Katia the Conservative Dachshund

mncons72 on June 15, 2009 at 5:08 AM

Make sure you read Michael Totten and Andrew Sullivan. It is great stuff.

maggieo on June 15, 2009 at 5:10 AM

I’ve been glued to Twitter the past couple days getting updates from over there. But you DO have to be skeptical of everything you get on Twitter. One guy sent a link to a video of a young woman shot by police and being rushed to a hospital, and the video was actually from 2007. The guy later sent a tweet informing of his error, but it highlights the unreliability of some of the info coming from there.

flipflop on June 15, 2009 at 7:05 AM

We believe this will change info trafficking forever. It is making MSM completely irrelevant! All credit goes to citizen journalists on the ground in Iran! We are just a passing their words along. My wife & I are putting in some serious hours. VERY TIRED!!
Thanks for making this point HotAir!

AmeriKeith on June 15, 2009 at 10:23 PM