Twitter, Iran and the ability to control information

Posted on June 17, 2009  /  2 Comments

Twitter postpones scheduled maintenance to keep service available for Iranian users. Journalists request video on twitter and get deluged with responses.

The BBC’s Persian-language television channel said that for a time on Tuesday, it was receiving about five videos a minute from amateurs, even though the channel is largely blocked within Iran. One showed pro-government militia members firing weapons at a rally.

“We’ve been struck by the amount of video and eyewitness testimony,” said Jon Williams, the BBC world news editor. “The days when regimes can control the flow of information are over.”

What does this say about the ability of governments to block info? If the mobile networks and the Internet are shut down, what will happen? What are the costs to government?

Full story.


  1. Dan Rather, long-time anchor and managing editor of the CBS Evening News, who covered Tiananmen protests 20 years ago, has written an insightful piece where he compares then and now:

    “Despite the surface similarities, this is not Tiananmen in 1989. The Christian Science Monitor references the equation, seen on blogs such as Read Write Web, that “Tiananmen + Twitter = Tehran.” The proliferation of information technology and the phenomenon of citizen journalism have made it much harder now to turn the lights out than it was two decades ago. Oral history once kept alive for generations the stories unsanctioned by official propaganda; now social-networking tools have the power to spread the people’s story around the world, instantly.”

    Full essay at:

  2. Audio cassette became a crucial communication medium during Iran’s anti-Shah movement in 1979. The sermons of exiled Ayatollah Khomeini were recorded and the cassettes were smuggled into Iran. His supporters fast duplicated and distributed them.

    This process gave enormous ubiquity to Khomeini’s long sermons across the boiling Iran. It was manifold effective than leaflets too. The Pahlavi dynasty could not withstand the audio cassettes’ tsunami although Paris was the epicenter. Death of distance. The triumphant Imam returned from exile. He very smartly used the best available technology to ubiquitiously motivate the mass.

    Fast forward 30 years. The citizens now live in more networked societies and Iran’s is no different. Cellphones, texting, YouTube, Flickr and Twitter have empowered the people with unprecedented ability to communicate. The mainstream media now, quite reluctantly, pays due respect to citizen’s journalism. The leaders everywhere should take a serious note of it. Or face the tsunami.