The fact that the likes of Facebook and Twitter, are playing a vital role in communicating dissent in the aftermath of the Iranian presidential election should not be surprising. Despite the western world seeing Iran as something of a closed society, the second language of blogging on the web is Farsi, with some reports suggesting that there are 700,000 bloggers in that language.
This is a computer-literate society, and as the BBC reported this morning on the Today programme, the demographics of those who have taken their dissent out on the streets who how to make their voice heard on the web too. Among the keenest protesters are well-educated and westernised young people who have active on the internet for years now.
What the web has provided is a means to provide near real-time and unfiltered information to pour out of Iran. Twitter in particular has been a focus for those want the absolute latest news. After an initial fight amongst users about what Twitter feed people should follow for the latest on Iran, most are now using the #iranelection tag to send in their tweets.
Some have clearly being using the micro-blogging service to try and organise protests. “After yesterday million-large protests, continue your peaceful protests today in Tehran at Valiasr Street 5pm TELL EVERYONE,” wrote one Twitter user this morning.
Initially, reports from Tehran straight after the election suggested the authorities had tried to interfere or had disabled access to some sites, like Twitter and Facebook, and even blocked SMS text messages, a preferred medium of communication amongst young Iranian. Reporters Without Borders said that ten or so pro-opposition websites were censored in the aftermath of the election results being announced. Under such conditions, Iranian hackers reportedly help to keep channels to access the web open and even took down Mr. Ahmadinejad's website in an act of sabotage.
In this context, it is easier to understand some of the debates that are raging on social media sites. Some Twitter users complained that the #iranelection feed was being watched, filtered and censored by the Iranian regime. As that rumour began to spread, others said this was a deliberate misinformation trying to make people wary about using Twitter.
Despite all of this, the #iranelection feed has been amongst the most popular Twitter feed for the past days. Seeing this unprecedented surge of interest, Twitter announced yesterday that it will change the times that it would take down the site for maintenance. Twitter moved the downtime to the middle of the night Iran time, with founder Biz Stone explaining that they were recognising “the role Twitter is currently playing as an important communication tool in Iran.”
The revolution may not be televised in Iran, but it may well be tweeted.
[via Times Online]