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The Iran elections and citizen journalism via Twitter

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Above: Image by sharif via Flickr.

News reporting on the recent presidential election protests in Iran have been neutered by the country's government - in some instances, telephone, text messaging and Internet services were restricted, and journalists have even been banned from attending "unauthorized" demonstrations.

Thus, many Iranians have turned to Twitter to do their own citizen reporting, and also to receive news. A quick search on the micro-sharing network for the hashtag #iranelection or #gr88 brings back a barrage of updates. (While writing these first two paragraphs, the search brought back 2,192 more results since my first query only minutes ago.)

While the United States is steering clear of the election chaos, they are actively working with Twitter and other social networking sites to make sure information is flowing freely to and from Iran. Case in point: The State Department asked Twitter to postpone scheduled maintenance that would have impacted the site's uptime in Iran.

Any time a trending topic gets popular on Twitter, it runs the risk of being diluted (and sometimes polluted) by the masses jumping into the conversation and retweeting rapidly-changing information. That's why I love this blog post by BoingBoing's Cory Doctorow that gives Twitter users a playbook for constructive participation. He even suggests a trick to help protect the Iranian bloggers using Twitter: Changing your Twitter location to Tehran and your timezone to GMT +3.30 might help thwart security officers in their hunt to locate and censor bloggers.

While many criticize Twitter as a platform for mundane updates from the self-obsessed, the Iranian elections prove that it can be a valuable tool for quickly distributing (and retrieving) information in a de-centralized method that surpasses government or organizational control.

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Comments

Great article, Nathan. This really shows the power of Twitter beyond a "platform for mundane updates from the self-obsessed," as you note. Twitter is breaking the news cycle down to mere seconds and shows how one person can have an enormous influence around the world.

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