Last month I wrote a post entitled ‘Not convinced by Twitter’ in which I spoke about how I couldn’t understand the point of Twitter, and why people would make any real effort in following people’s tweets.
You can only write 140 characters in your message, so just how interesting can it really be in following such comments?
Well I have to admit that following the recent elections and political demonstrations in Iran , it seems I may have been too quick to dismiss Twitter, as it appears to have come into its own as a way of challenging the political establishment.
During the demonstrations many protesters began using Twitter as means of communicating to the outside world, what was actually going on in the country.
This is such an interesting development. With the Iranian authorities restricting access to the Internet, and other communication outlets, and international news organisations struggling to report what was happening on the ground, Twitter stepped up to the mark to provide quick and instantly updated commentary on what people were doing, and how they felt about the situation.
Not only this, the constant messaging also provided a way by which protesters could organise and mobilise themselves in their protests against their leaders.
I suppose it should be remembered that many of the people sending the tweets were not acting as journalists or reporters in the traditional sense. They were not there to report the facts in an impartial journalistic way.
I can imagine that in such a situation many of the tweets being written were nothing more than rumour or gossip on what was taking place. I suppose the challenge for traditional journalists and reporters was to figure out how they could gather together the various tweets and try and makes sense of them all. By doing so, they could then hopefully be in a position to provide some form of context and narrative of the events taking place.
The Iranian authorities soon began to realise the potential dangers and advantages of Twitter themselves. They set up and started sending their own decoy Twitter tweets to try and trap the protesters, and also to put out false information in order to control the demonstrations.
It’s going to be interesting to see how in the near future, authoritarian and semi-democratic regimes such China and Iran deal with the development of media technology and social networking sites like Twitter. Modern media technology has shown that it has ways of avoiding censorship by governments, and providing news and information to the outside world.
Of course authoritarian governments will still go out of their way to control and suppress information . China is still very adapt at doing such things.
The problem that these governments face, is the increasing challenge of sharing the same media technology as the West, which their young media savvy populations desire and want to share in; but in doing so they are creating future problems for themselves, as they do not have the democratic freedoms and ideals that accompany such media in the West.
This inevitably creates tensions, as seen in Iran, whereby the movement of information is increasingly used to share and formulate ideas in ways previously unseen, which authoritarian regimes cannot or don't know how to control.