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
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.)
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.