Twitter is playing a significant role in the Iran Political Crisis

Until recently critics of Twitter were quite reasonably skeptical of claims that Twitter significantly influenced the US election or that Twitter was bringing more than trivial bits of real time news to the web, but the Iranian Election shows how important the service has become as a global communication and democratization tool.

Before CNN was adequately covering the sweeping events in Iran Twitter was being used in and out of the country to keep people informed even as other social networks and computer services were shut down.

Although I’m not entirely clear on infrastructure issues, I think Twitter will be able to make it much harder for anti-democratic forces to stifle messaging via the service compared to the more complicated services like Facebook.

Kudos to the service for rescheduling a major infrastructure upgrade until tomorrow, recognizing that Twitter is of increasing importance in making sure news and information flows freely in and out of Iran during the crisis there: Twitter Blog

CNET – Twitter is Confusing Censors in Iran

22 thoughts on “Twitter is playing a significant role in the Iran Political Crisis

  1. Watching history unfold live on Twitter while CNN’s top story was about people’s reaction to the switch to digital we’ve known for years was coming signaled a *huge* shift in just how far new media, social media, has come and how much old media has to learn if they’d like to stay relevant.

    Sure, there is a whole bunch of misinformation out there that we wouldn’t tolerate from old media, but they clearly need to try harder, and governments who fear their people having information have new reason to worry. A lot can change when people know that the world can truly hear them and can hear a response.

    I’m one of the gazillions who called NTT America concerned about the timing of the maintenance, and they guy I talked to had heard from many. The instant and wide dissemination of information upon which people can act is mind blowing.

  2. Miss Michelle supposedly invited Wynton Marsalis and some palsies over to play a bit of jazz at La Casablanca (was Master BO away on biz??!! Zut). Wyn. playing Cherokee: c’est Democracy—

  3. …governments who fear their people having information have new reason to worry. A lot can change when people know that the world can truly hear them and can hear a response.

    Maggie I think that is very nicely put, and very true

  4. Joe I am interested how you define significant for this situation? Is it significant for the voyeurism aspect of the events?

    What exactly is Twitter doing that is significant?

    (2) LS – LOL…yeah don’t hold your breath. Bush did the same thing…just another point that proves Obama is really no different than Bush he is just a lot more reckless with the money.

    I still the major problem with Twitter is retention…they just don’t keep people connected to it for more than 30 days or so. It just isn’t going to a player in the long-term unless of course it is re-invented in some way to fix the retention issue.

  5. Glenn I think Twitter really is shining as a new way to 1) dodge the censorship and 2) involve the world in the events in ways that make it much harder for autocratic forces. One of the reasons North Korea has managed to be repressive for so long is the iron grip they have on media. Twitter and other social media is chipping away at that and we’ll see fairly soon that it’s impossible to keep dissent stifled.

  6. In terms of retention I think it’s simply too early to say, but events like the elections in US and Iran where Twitter has become a *key* tool of real time information will help. For example I had an account for almost a year before I came to realize how important Twitter would become as the social media icebreaker. It’s possible mass adoption will come from other aps, and certainly Facebook is currently playing a bigger role than Twitter in socializing, but my money remains on Twitter to become one of a handful of indispensable tools for most onliners.

  7. While the media insists the protesters are the white hats and the mullahs and A-jad, blackhats, we don’t know really know that for sure. We should remember that the AIPAC (thoroughly bipartisan) and pro-Israel forces in US desperately want A-jad removed. Additionally, the margins were not that close; A-jad won over 60% of vote. Fraud’s certainly a possibility (Hitchens claims that, though he’s not the most credible RealPolitiker), and no one should turn a blind eye to the muslim extremists.

    Iran is a foreign country, however, and they are entitled to autonomy, and free elections, even if the results don’t please westerners. For that matter, Isolationism may be a bit unnerving for the usual American sunday-schooler–most of us would find it difficult to sit through a videotaped hanging of some infidel iranian or paki teenagers (though somewhat fascinating: the fedayeen generally use the ancien regime hoist method instead of old west or British gallows where the neck breaks, usually, and condemned dies in a few minutes. In some rural area of Iran or Paki, the infidel hangs for an hour or two while the crowd chants–ALLAH AKBAR!. The blasphemer, occasionally female, suffocates, and they leave the body hanging for a day or more. Of course decapitation a bit more efficient (and grisly)).

    The last 8 years of Bushco serves as an example of non-isolationism. That said, the world seems in a rather precarious state, and I suspect the Israel posse are not too pleased with A-jad’s apparent victory.

  8. (7) Well I would think Google Wave will be the real medium that breaks through this type of stuff and facilitates change while people really stick to it and use it every day and not just for certain events. Pretty soon I would figure Twitter will be like ABC..yeah but remember on that day way back when when we had a lot of viewers…lol

    (8) Yeah but they are peace-loving rational group of people…lol

  9. Iran is a foreign country, however, and they are entitled to autonomy, and free elections, even if the results don’t please westerners.

    The key point. However don’t agree that most media is reporting this poorly – I think the general view is that there was probably some fraud but AhmaD probably would’ve won a “free and fair” election. However the relevance is NOT the outcome, it’s the fact that Iranians feel stifled by the Mullahs and want that system to give way to real democracy. Wouldn’t it be great if that could come about from within and with little external intervention?

  10. I’m not sure that the Iranian people–if one can generalize about that class–want western-style democracy. The assumption that the mullahs control “everything” also has not really been substantiated: I suspect they are powerful, because most Iranians (certainly the males) support sharia, and don’t exactly care for western or EU type liberal democracy.

    I also find it amusing that some moderate democrats (such as this buffoon) now sound about like Limbaughites in their emotional pleas for the “protesters”, the assumption being that if A-jad and Mullahs just allow some McDonalds, Starbucks, Hooters, Walmart-malls, Movie-plexes next to the mosques and madrassahs, everything will be cool. It’s sort of crypto-imperialism in a sense. The situation seems a bit Camusian: on one hand, the traditional culture may have drawbacks, and may be a bit sanguine. The supposed democratic alternative, however, offers the Walmartopolis.

  11. Not a great tag. Lo siento. Another thing: the “green” worn by some of the protesters usually has symbolized the saudis and sunni moderates, if I recall correctly. So it’s not exactly like college kids and hipsters in the streets of Ann Arbor or Berkeley.

  12. So how many more innocent Iranians are going to have to die before we wake up here and in the U.N. and recognize that our foreign policy approach with Iran is a dismal failure? It was wrong under Bush and it is even worse under Obama. A lot of what is happening today in Iran is on our hands and the U.N. We had hard evidence what Iran has been doing and NONE of us had any stomach to do anything about it.

    It is shameful for a country as powerful as the USA to sit back and basically do nothing at this time. You want to make allies with the Iranian people…let’s help them effect change NOW.

    I wouldn’t put it past Iran to launch a strike on Israel at this time to put the entire region into chaos.

    Of course since we are taking the same foolish approach with DPRK we will see similar violence in the near future.

  13. Horatiox I think it’s true that people there tend to have somewhat different ideas about the right blend of democracy, free speech, commercialism, sex, drugs, and rock and roll (though the latter may provide the most common ground). Still, I think in Iran you have the “old school” thinking of those in power vs a much shinier view from the reform folks. It’s up to Iran to decide as long as they don’t mess with the rest of us and even making global terror trouble is far less likely in my view if the reformers are given much more of a voice or given power again.

    Glenn it seems to me Obama does not really have an Iran policy yet, and he’s right to wait for things to stabilize before jumping into the fray.

    You seem to want the US to move in militarily but that would be used to justify a massive repressive crackdown and would undermine the opposition’s efforts immediately and force them to back the regime against what would be seen as an “invasion”. We’d have nobody to support, not to mention Iran is much stronger than Iraq was and that became a quagmire fast. We’d lose the momentum and respect around the globe the Obama election has fostered.

  14. (14) Joe with all due respect Obama has an Iran policy…his policy is NO MATTER WHAT he will back I’manidiot because he believes he can talk to him and negotiate peace.

    Obama’s arrogance will be his downfall. His arrogance is causing a very naive approach to countries like Iran. What this will all fall apart and be a massive failure of foreign policy. His grand experiment is helping get many innocent people killed.

    It is the U.N., Obama, Bush and past weak policy that has allowed this regime to exist-unchecked and unchallenged.

    We shouldn’t even be having this discussion today. We need to wake up and understand what kind of people we are dealing with (not the public – the people in control) in countries like Iran and DPRK. Until we eliminate the leadership nothing will change and their respective regions will become more dangerous.

    There were many times in the past 20 years where we could have done something to avoid this but we don’t have the political will. We have a bunch of elected cowards that sit back and watch innocents get slaughtered all over the world.

    We can’t support an invasion in Iran now – there is no way we would be successful we don’t have a commander in chief that understands success, doing the best we can do…

  15. (14) Actually Joe I believe if Obama actually launched a war in Iran…he wouldn’t end it until both sides had an equal amount of dead, etc…after all he only believes in equal result. As I said back in March…Obama was already failure back then and he is only getting worse.

  16. If there is any doubt in your mind where Obama’s loyalties really are…just look at these fact:

    Obama administration also has zeroed out funding for pro-democracy programs inside Iran from the State Department budget for fiscal 2010, just as protests in Iran are ramping up.

    Funding for pro-democracy programs began in 2004, when Congress earmarked $1.5 million of the State Department budget for “educational, humanitarian, and non-governmental organizations and individuals inside Iran to support the advancement of democracy and human rights in Iran.”

    The funding ramped up dramatically two years later, when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice requested $75 million for pro-democracy programs. More than half of the $66.1 million Congress finally appropriated went to expand U.S. government-funded Persian language broadcasting services at Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

    But no money has been earmarked for such programs in the administration’s fiscal 2010 foreign operations budget request.

    Now some would say we are just trying to save money…but when you look at this FACT:

    Obama recently pledged $900 million in assistance to Hamas.

    WTH is going on here?

  17. Video in memory of Neda Agha Soltan, the young female bystander who was shot dead yesterday in the streets of Tehran by a Basij militia sniper. Most appropriately, her name “Neda” in Farsi means “voice” or “call”. Let Neda’s martyrdom be a call to the Iranian people to rise up and stand for freedom from tyranny! The video is set to the Peter Gabriel song, “Biko”, which was written in memory of Stephen Biko, a martyr of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.

  18. This is very disturbing stuff. Obama’s foreign policy is just simply a joke. His approach and responses to Iran are the moral equivalent of him voting present!

    This is shameful that we sit back and support this horrendous regime. Reminds me of Chamberlain prior to WWII.

    I really don’t know how you Obama supporters sleep at night…well maybe finally dis-inviting the Iranian diplomats to our July 4th celebrations is enough for you. It isn’t enough for me…thousands are being slaughtered in the streets and YET WE DO NOTHING, SAY NOTHING. This is a disgrace – the Iranians just want freedom and democracy and somehow that isn’t important to our country anymore. This is not a proud day to be American.

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