Iranians Revolt on Twitter, Facebook And YouTube
"Iran Elections," "Iranians," "Tehran" and "Mousavi" (also spelled "Moussavi") were the trending topics on Twitter for a whole day on Tuesday, June 16. When four out of ten trending topics are all about the same issue, you know the world is focused. This blog is testimony to how the social media tools of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube can help fight back censorship in the 21st Century.
According to NY Times article, it was noted that Twitter was aware of the power of its service in this regard. Acknowledging its role on the global stage, the San Francisco-based company said on Monday June 15 that it was delaying a planned shutdown for maintenance for a day, citing “the role Twitter was currently playing as an important communication tool in Iran."
In a subsequent NY Times article, a 27-year-old State Department official, Jared Cohen apparently e-mailed Twitter with a request: to delay scheduled maintenance of its global network, which would have cut off service while Iranians were using Twitter to swap information and inform the outside world, The request, made to a Twitter co-founder, Jack Dorsey, is yet another new-media milestone: the recognition by the United States government that an Internet blogging service that did not exist four years ago has the potential to change history in an ancient Islamic country.
Mr. Cohen, a Stanford University graduate who is the youngest member of the State Department’s policy planning staff, has been working with Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and other services to harness their reach for diplomatic initiatives in Iraq and elsewhere
To show global solidarity, many Twitter users have changed their user photos (avatars) to green, and/or included images from Iran, such as green paint dipped fingers making the peace sign. Green is traditionally considered a symbolic color of Islam, but has also come to represent the movement against Iran’s election results.
Facts that show that the social networks of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube sit in the epicenter of this maelstrom is evidenced by the 100s of web sites, profiles, tweets and fan pages that emerged this week. Mr. Moussavi’s fan group on Facebook alone has swelled to over 50,000 members, an exponential increase since election day a week earlier.
The twitter feed "StopAhmadi" calling itself the “Dedicated Twitter account for Moussavi supporters” now has over 9600 followers
...while another Twitter feed had 22,000 followers, on June 19, I was asked to remove the image of this Twitter page as it may have been potentially harmful to the Iranian who set up the account!
Twitter users are posting messages, known as tweets, with the term #IranElection, which allows users to search for all tweets on the subject. According to the NY Times, on Monday evening, Twitter was registering about 30 new posts a minute with that tag.
One revealing tweet summed up the censorship issue in less than 140 characters.
Iranians continued to report that they could not send text messages. However according to Jonathan Zittrain, a professor at Harvard Law School and an online expert said that Twitter was particularly resilient to censorship because it had so many ways for its posts to originate — from a phone, a Web browser or specialized applications — and so many outlets for those posts to appear.
Iranian authorities have imposed severe restrictions on foreign news organisations trying to cover protests in Tehran following the recent elections, but the Iranian protesters are transferring video to their mobile phones and cameras and uploading it to YouTube, as evidenced here...
The video and social networking websites of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have helped break this important story and expose it in real time on the Internet. While Iran does have the ability to shut down some of its major news outlets, it is incapable of terminating cell phone transmissions. About 60 percent of Iran's 70-million population are under 30 years old and the country has some 20 million web users.
In an era where censorship and Big Brother still try to hold their controlling grip on its citizens in countries like Iran and China (see my previous blog on "Social Networks in China"), it's gratifying to see how social networks can be used effectively to fight back this oppression.
Perhaps Ezra Gottheil, an analyst at Technology Business Research summed it up best when he said: “I think this is Twitter’s finest hour...this has made our world smaller and more personal in a time of great chaos, when a government is trying to stop communication.”