Iran: “The First Revolution Catapulted and Transformed by Social Media”

Not my words – this is coming from Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody, one of the best books I’ve read over the past year.   I’ve clipped a quote from a recent Q&A he did for TED (full link below):

What do you make of what’s going on in Iran right now?
I’m always a little reticent to draw lessons from things still unfolding, but it seems pretty clear that … this is it. The big one. This is the first revolution that has been catapulted onto a global stage and transformed by social media. I’ve been thinking a lot about the Chicago demonstrations of 1968 where they chanted “the whole world is watching.” Really, that wasn’t true then. But this time it’s true … and people throughout the world are not only listening but responding. They’re engaging with individual participants, they’re passing on their messages to their friends, and they’re even providing detailed instructions to enable web proxies allowing Internet access that the authorities can’t immediately censor. That kind of participation is reallly extraordinary.

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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).

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Getting the News out of Iran, on Twitter

What’s my sweetspot for news?  Where foreign affairs meets Web 2.0.  And there’s a great one today – Iranian protesters using Twitter to get updates out to the world.

Here’s a link to the top citizen-reporters on Twitter, which is absolutely a-flutter (lame pun, excuse me) with #IranElection updates.  Once again, if you aren’t on Twitter, shame on you.

The Atlantic’s Daily Dish blog is doing a great job of posting updates as they come in.  

Ahmadenijad’s forces are doing all they can to shut down social media communication channels; Facebook and YouTube have both been blocked in Tehran.

Kudos to the major news sites (such as The Atlantic) who are leveraging these channels to spread the information.


UPDATE:  Just came across a great NY Times article – Real Time Criticism of CNN’s Iran Coverage.  Seems the Twittersphere was unhappy with CNN’s lack of coverage on the Iran situation.  Here’s a block quote from the article:

Untold thousands used the label “CNNfail” on Twitter to vent their frustrations. Steve LaBate, an Atlanta resident, said on Twitter, “Why aren’t you covering this with everything you’ve got?” About the same time, CNN was showing a repeat of Larry King’s interview of the stars of the “American Chopper” show. For a time, new criticisms were being added on Twitter at least once a second.

Andrew Sullivan, a blogger for The Atlantic, wrote, “There’s a reason the MSM is in trouble,” using the blogosphere abbreviation for mainstream media.

I’m not going to enter into a debate on Twitter/socialmedia vs. MSM, since I don’t believe it’s a one-versus-the-other battle.  But seeing Twitter’s citizen reporters/watchdogs play a role and actually influence mainstream media coverage?  This I like.  Integrating socialmedia into MSM makes sense to me.


UPDATE 2:  I just came across this Tweet, from @persiankiwi: I am accessing twitter from Port:80 in tehran. you can avoid gov filters from here. spread. #Iranelection

Since Ahmadinejad has been trying to block Twitter users and other citizen-reporters from spreading news about the post-election protests and clashes, @PersianKiwi is one of many Twitter users working hard to get around the censors and continue reporting (via Twitter).

I’ll stop updating at this point, but I hope that more MSM attention gets directed towards the role that socialmedia has played over the past two days in Iran.  Let’s start realizing the true potential of these tools.

If you want to follow for yourself, here’s one final source:  Global Voices has some great citizen-reporter coverage, including YouTube videos, here.

Here’s one such video:


UPDATE 3:  Alright, one more, just because it’s that good. 

Here’s a BBC article titled “Internet Brings Events in Iran to Life”, which details how the main socialmedia outlets have been breaking the news.  Scroll through, there’s tons of great content.

All of this has me thinking about a recent article I read, wherein Malcolm Gladwell stated that “you can’t start blogging at 23 and call yourself a journalist.”  Two points on this.  1)  Damnit.  2) Why not?

Just over the horizon: Pakistan becomes foreign policy issue #1

I’m going to get right into this:  Pakistan is a growing problem, both for America and for the global issue of nuclear proliferation, and now represents the single most important foreign policy issue for America (and NATO).  A bold statement?  Yes.  But recent developments in the region, combined with some troublesome history, is leading me to believe that Pakistan (not Iraq, Afghanistan or Iran) needs to be at the centre of American foreign policy. 

First, I’ll give a quick recap of where the situation currently stands:

Let’s start with America’s military operations in the region.  At this point, it’s inaccurate to call it the Afghan war -America is well into a drone-based bombing campaign in Pakistan.  Also, for some time now, there’s been a push among the top of the US military leaders to expand the Pakistan campaign and engage in more aggressive tactics. Complicating issues even further, it’s pretty clear that factions within the Pakistani Army, notably the secretive S-wing of Pakistan’s spy service, have been aiding the Taliban.  Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari is openly aware of the S-wing ties, but is hesitant to do much about it.  I could go on here explaining the intricacies of the situation, but the links I’ve provided in this paragraph give you a pretty clear picture.

Politically, Pakistan’s government is on shaky ground, with India already declaring them “close” to becoming a failed state, and The Economist citing them as the country at greatest risk of becoming a failed state

With all of their internal and external strife, there’s one issue that’s becoming a major concern – Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.  What happens if they become a failed state?  Are their weapons safe and secured? 

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Crowdsourcing on Mobiles: Reporting the Crisis from Madagascar

(Originally written and posted at

As I write this blog, a potentially violent crisis is emerging in Madagascar, as the military ceded control of the African country to opposition leader Andry Rajoelina today.  Just two hour ago, the US Department of State ordered all non-emergency workers out of the country amidst fears that previous protests from January, where over 100 people were killed, could be re-sparked.

In the initial round of protests on January 26th, when traditional media reports were unavailable to and from many regions, social media played an important role in information relays.  Now, crisis reporting is made even more transparent with an open platform developed by Ushahidi.  Ushahidi (meaning “testimony” in Swahili) was first developed to report on violence during the 2008 Kenyan election, using a collaborative base of citizen journalists to map crisis information and gather insights.  The platform has also been in used in Gaza and Congo.

Here, you can see the Madagascar-specific site, where citizens can check the Google Maps mashup to learn where crises are occurring (and have occurred previously).  They can also view a listing of all reports, submit their own (via internet or mobile) and receive SMS alerts on their mobiles about any developments in their locality. 


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