Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tweets from Tehran

This generation is wired to the Internet; any college student could tell you the importance of social networking websites like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. But for Iranians, these "new kinds of social media" are taking on a serious, political role in the chaotic aftermath of Friday's election. Though the government has been heavily censoring communication in the country - for example, putting down protests, filtering the web, and rejecting requests to extend journalists' expiring visas - Twitter has become a resilient tool for communicating within Iran and with the global community.

A New York Times article described Twitter's increasing importance: "Iranians are blogging, posting to Facebook and, most visibly, coordinating their protests on Twitter, the messaging service. Their activity has increased, not decreased, since the presidential election on Friday and ensuing attempts by the government to restrict or censor their online communications." 30 new tweets with the tag "#IranElection" were added every minute on Monday evening.

The article goes on to explain why Twitter is thriving despite the government crackdown. Jonathon Zittrain of Harvard Law School pointed out that there are "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." Furthermore, Iranians are increasingly taking advantage of Internet proxies, which enable web access from remote servers.

All of this helps explain why the State Department urged Twitter to delay its scheduled maintenance, which Laura wrote about yesterday. Who knew "tweeting" could be so serious?

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