Twitter and the Cyber War in Tehran Wednesday June 17, 2009

So this will probably get me banned in Iran, but I guess I’ll have to just accept that my one reader in Iran won’t be able to see my Random Thoughts ever again… oh well.

But being a Twitter Advocate, I can’t just let the recent events in Iran pass without some commentary. If you haven’t been paying attention here’s a dirty synopsis;

The Dirty c.t.o Synopsis

So, last week there was an election in Iran.

Then to nobody’s surprise Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won. At this point most of the world just looked away, because really was it a surprise that Ahmadinejad won? Really? What reason would there be to question it? Dictator wins his own election. Ooo the shock.

But then a funny thing happened. The young people of Iran and some election watchdogs started questioning the irregularities in the results. People started protesting peacefully (which goes against everything Western Society knows of the locked down Iranian society). Then absolute chaos ensues. Protesters were met with gun fire. And all of a sudden, the demonstrating citizens of Iran started organizing themselves against the government using … dah, dah, dana – Twitter. (and to a lesser extent Facebook … but most people got distracted by the Quizzes – I’m kidding)

Suddenly, the hashtag #iranelection became a trending topic. People in the Western world started opening up proxy id’s to allow organizers to by-pass the Iranian blockades of twitter. Members of the twitterverse started adjusting their time zones and home locations to try and confuse the Iranian government about the number of users on Twitter in Tehran. (Albeit it’s still up in the air if that’s even useful) There was a call to arms for hackers to attack the Iranian government web site. The U.S. state department advised Twitter to reschedule an important maintenance to allow open communication between the protesters. The Iranian government started setting up fake twitter accounts to confuse citizens and blame it on Western Society. The Twitterverse started lashing out at CNN and the BBC for ignoring the chaos in Iran … All of this spurred on by that little 140 Character application we all like to make fun of.

Yes, there is far more to this story then I just wrote about and for those looking for a informed spin on the political connotations, it would be better to search the net. Because events in Iran are developing at a rate that very few people can comprehend. From a distance it’s all very surreal … surreal like a crazy game of Shadowrun) (I know, i know my nerd is now showing).

Without question it is an interesting time for this country.

So What Does This Mean For Twitter?

Not to take away from the events in Iran, but it also happens to be an important moment in the social media phenom’s short life span. (As mentioned by Clay Shirky)

For a while now, I’ve always believed that the biggest misconception about Twitter has been the opening question on the main page – The question of What Are You Doing?

Misleading, because the true power of the platform has not been about answering that question, but about the ability to broadcast 140 characters of free content to anyone willing to listen.

But the question on the front page has always detracted from Twitter’s real power. Most people can’t get past the initial question. To most, what I’m doing, literally means eating or sleeping. But people in Tehran, aren’t using Twitter to answer that question with starting a revolution or tossing Molotov cocktails.

To these people the Twitter question has no application to their usage. Twitter has become 140 characters of open communication and a tool that has become very critical to events there.

The latest series of events will probably do more to clean Twitter’s stigma left by Oprah and Mr. Demi Moore, than good old time would have. As Shirky mentions, this could be the tipping point where people start ignoring the question What Are You Doing and understanding the platform a bit more … eventually taking it a bit more seriously.

How do I find out More?

For more information about the actual situation in Iran, here’s a few links that will provide some real information.

1) The Boing Boing – CyberWar Guide For Iran

2) TED Talk: Clay Shirky on Twitter & Iran (via DuncanKinney)

3) Iran Election, Uprising Tracked On Twitter As Government Censors Media

4) The Big Picture: Photos From Iran’s Disputed Election (again via. DuncanKinney)

Categories: The-Twitter-verse, The-World, Bumbershoot 2008, The Blogosphere

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