Iran as the First Internet Uprising


From @GregMitch on Twitter:  Brian Williams just now asks Richard Engel, back from Iran: “Is this the first Internet uprising?” Engel: “Yes.”

(Engel is NBC’s Chief Foreign Correspondent).

I’ve been in class since I blogged about the role of socialmedia in Iran yesterday, but suffice to say that today has been a very big day for socialmedia.  You’ll see plenty of stories about this elsewhere, so I won’t rehash. 

I urge people not to get too carried away by the volume of coverage.  Keep in mind that much of it is digital mirroring – I’ve been posting #IranElection updates to spread the word, but I’m by no means a reporter myself.  Many Twitter users like to get involved with the top trending topics to feel like they’ve played a role, and will repost Tweets that haven’t been confirmed.  In the new world of publish-then-filter, we have to take caution so as not to be carried away by unconfirmed sources.

Still, we should focus on the quality of coverage, and what it’s accomplished.  After the Twitter outrage directed at CNN’s lack of coverage, major news networks went back to reporting on Iran.  That’s a big win, as socialmedia has now proven it has significant power in the agenda-setting and gate-keeping duties previously monopolized by mainstream media.  And obviously, sources like @persiankiwi, who I believe are legit, have done a fantastic job of getting around the government censors to report from the ground, getting us news that we would otherwise be missing.

I predict that the Twitter/Youtube coverage in Iran will go down as a turning point for socialmedia, just as the Tiananmen coverage 20 years ago was for CNN.


UPDATE:  New article in the NY Times just went up, “Social Networks Spread Iranian Defiance Online.”  Quote:  

Jonathan Zittrain, a professor at Harvard Law School who is an expert on the Internet, said that Twitter was particularly resilient to censorship because it had so many ways to for its posts to originate — from a phone, a Web browser or specialized applications — and so many outlets for those posts to appear.

As each new home for this material becomes a new target for censorship, he said, a repressive system faces a game of whack-a-mole in blocking Internet address after Internet address carrying the subversive material.

Well put.


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