Social Media in Iran

14Jul09

Social Media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are proving to be successful outlets for reporting on events following the presidential election in Iran, where news is being heavily restricted and censored by the government, Poynter Online reported. The microblogging site Twitter has confirmed itself as a particularly valuable resource during recent protests in Iran, so much so that the U.S. government appealed to the networking site, asking it to delay scheduled maintenance in order to keep the site active and updated.

Other social media sites, such as YouTube and Flickr, provide video and photos of the events which are otherwise unlikely to be distributed or published in newspapers given the government’s restrictions on the press. The Iranian uprising has also inspired the aggregation of Tweets on a site called WhyWeProtest.net which offers a list of “essential Twitter follows.”

Thanks to proxy servers that do not disclose the location of the user, bloggers and other news gatherers are able to access and upload content on sites that have been blocked by the Iranian government. However, government efforts to block the proxies are making online access increasingly more difficult. In response the the heightened censorship, Iranians are asking the international community for aid in creating new proxies which would allow for more reporting.

Here’s a snip from a blog post by Ethan Zuckerman about lessons learned from many hours on the phone with reporters doing “social media in Iran” stories:

ethanz.jpg It’s been an interesting few days for people who study social media. As the protests over election results have continued in Iran, and Iranian authorities have prevented most mainstream journalists from reporting on events, there’s been a great deal of focus on social media tools, which have become very important for sharing events on the ground in Iran with audiences around the world. I, like many of my friends at the Berkman Center and Global Voices, have spent much of the past two days on the phone with reporters, fielding questions about:– Whether social media is enabling, causing or otherwise driving the protests in Iran
– How Iranian users are managing to access the internet despite widespread filtering
– The ethics (and practice) of distributed denial of service attacks as a form of information warfare
– Whether such online activities are unprecedented

Rather than tell you what I and colleagues have been saying to reporters, I’ll point you to one of the better stories, by Anne-Marie Corley in MIT’s Technology Review – she interviews several of my Berkman and Open Net Initiative colleagues and outlines the argument many of us are making:

– Social media is probably more important as a tool to share the protests with the rest of the world than it is as an organizing tool on the ground.
– Iranians have been accessing social networking sites and blogging platforms despite years of filtering – there’s a cadre of folks who understand how to get around these blocks and are probably teaching others.
– Because so many Iranians use social media tools – often to talk about topics other than politics – they’re a “latent community” that can come to life and have political influence when events on the ground dictate.

Iran, citizen media and media attention (Via Jay Rosen)

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2 Responses to “Social Media in Iran”

  1. 1 stefanie

    That was very interesting


  1. 1 The Regina Streets Magazine » The Power of Social Media: #iranelection

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