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?

Using Twitter for Gov 2.0 Research

I originally wrote this blog for, but I thought it would fit well here.  Here’s a quick explanation of how I use Twitter for research purposes, which will hopefully give some insight into how Twitter is a valuable Web 2.0 tool, and not just a means of stalking Ashton Kutcher.

First, I’ll briefly explain my Twitter identity.  f you want to follow me, my Twitter name is @A_Marsh. You’ll notice that 3/4 of my posts are very short comments designed to entice followers to click through on links I’ve provided (many of which are in the Wikinomics theme). Essentially, I use Twitter as a gateway to substantive content, a style of Tweeting that revolves around drawing attention to longer, more substantial sources.

As far as using Twitter as a research tool, I generally follow other user who also use it as a gateway to more substantive content. For me, Twitter is something like a news condenser, or a filter. I’ve handpicked a series of intelligent users to follow on Twitter, users who filter through the glut of information available on the web, and highlight what they believe to be the most useful and important. If you pick out the right users to follow, it can be akin to having an entire team of researchers working for you, pro-bono and in realtime.

So here’s two examples of how I’ve used Twitter to stay up to date on developments in the world of Government 2.0.

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Creative application contests: Engaging developers in the public sphere

(Originally written and posted at

Last November, Vivek Kundra, current CIO of the USA and former CTO of DC, launched Apps for Democracy, a contest designed to crowdsource the best public sector data-mashup applications from private developers. The top submissions from the contest, such as and DC Historic Tours, demonstrated the power of citizen-driven idea sourcing and application-building. Since the success of Apps for Democracy, two new contests have taken place.

At noon yesterday, the Sunlight Foundation announced the winners from the Apps for America contest. The top prize (which came with a $15 000 reward) went to the makers of, a web-based application that sheds light on which Senators have been filibustering legislation in the US Senate. There were 16 prize winners in total, and I definately recommend checking out the winners for yourself (my favorite is

Next came the recently-launched INCA – the Innovative and Creative Application Contest, based out of Belgium. This contest is open for anyone to submit an application, be it a website, widget, google mashup or mobile application, to be used by Flemish citizens to help solve “collective and social problems.” Prizes will be awarded to the ten best submissions, with the top developer receiving a prize of 20 000 Euros (about $25 ooo USD). Deadline for submission is April 27th.

With INCA, Apps for America and last November’s Apps for Democracy, we’re starting to see a very exciting trend in the Gov 2.0 space: software developers and programmers engaging in social causes and public sector development. Can these contests help spur the creation of new services along the lines of fixmystreet or transparency tools like opencongress? After speaking with Sunlight’s John Wonderlich and Apps for Democracy architect Peter Corbett over the past two weeks, I’m convinced that they can.

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How much cybersecurity is needed to prevent a cyber-Katrina?

(Originally written and posted at

I came across a great article over the weekend discussing the proposed Cybersecurity Act of 2009, currently in working draft status in Congress (as a sidenote, I was directed to it via the GovLoop daily “Sweet Tweets” blog, an excellent source of Gov 2.0 news for anyone interested in this space). You may have read about this bill last week; the preamble states that it’s designed to protect online commerce, both for the US and its partners, by developing a “cadre of [IT] specialists to improve and maintain effective cybersecurity defenses,” a proposal that I imagine most citizens would support.

The issue of cybersecurity is nothing new; you can read Obama and Biden’s homeland security agenda, and specifically their objectives for “protecting our information networks” right here. On a more interesting note, the issue of a Katrina-like disaster in cyberspace has been a topic of major interest over the past few months. In February, former Whitehouse cybersecurity official Paul Kurts addressed the lack of a ‘FEMA for the internet’. More recently, the online discourse surrounding cybersecurity has ramped up substantially, particularly following the anxiety over last week’s Conficker Worm. This only stengthened the push for an American cyberecurity czar, which according to US Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), is an absolute necessity. In a statement released last week, Snowe (co-author of the new bill) argued that “if we fail to take swift action, we, regrettably, risk a cyber Katrina.”

The bill’s most striking proposal (Section 18, paragraph 2), and the central issue of the article I cited above, is that the new legislation would give the President emergency authority to halt web traffic, effectively shutting down the internet. Not surprisingly, this created something of an uproar among political bloggers over the weekend, many of whom took issue with this expansion of federal powers.

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What are they saying in Congress?

(Originally written and posted at


Wordles can be a great way to visualize political discourse, especially when you use them in comparative form. After Inauguration Day in January, Naumi wrote an excellent post , using IBM’s ManyEyes analysis to compare Obama’s inaugural speech to those of his predecessors.

These three tag clouds were all pulled from the Capitol Words Application, another development from the Sunlight Foundation (who we’ve written about previously – here, here and here). Capitol Words is a program that takes every word entered into the congressional record and archives it online in a mashable and searchable form. With different search metrics and visual aids, it allows you to see who’s saying what – broken down by individual, state or date. One application lists the “10 most vocal” and “10 quietest” lawmakers of the last 60 days (over this most recent period, Michael Michaud has only uttered 8 words in Congress, while Richard Durbin has said almost 70 000).

Above, I’ve copied 3 tag clouds. One of them represents all the words that John McCain has entered into Congressional Records over the past year. Another one is from Nancy Pelosi, and the third is from all the representatives from the state of Massachusetts. Can you guess which is which?

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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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