Friday, June 26, 2009

Impressions: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the Iranian Revolution

Saturday, June 20, 2009, was a fairly typical day for me. The only thing different than most Saturdays was we woke up early and dropped my daughter off at the airport for a graduation gift trip with her friends. On the way home my wife, younger daughter and I decided to stop at the mall and have the Apple store take a look at my daughter's busted power button on her iPod touch. We made a reservation at the Apple Genius Bar and ended up with about an hour and a half to kill walking around the mall. My wife and daughter ended up doing most of the shopping and I ended up peeking at my Twitter feed on my iPhone. I noticed a lot of tweets tagged #iranelection and decided to start following those tags.

Like tens of thousands of others for the rest of the day I watched a revolution tweet by tweet - described in 140 characters or less on Twitter. The Iranian government had pretty much shut down traditional media (television feeds, reporters, etc) but that did not matter - they could not shut down the web. As Secretary of Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, the Iranian government "could not draw the net tight enough to stop everything" It was evident when I got home and turned on the TV - guess where the major networks (CNN, Fox, etc) were getting their updates on Saturday - Twitter, Facebook, YouTube......

The ability to read, watch and experience through the eyes of others what was happening in real time was something I had never experienced before. The closest think I can compare it to was was it felt like like watching a live battle - not through the eyes and interpretation of a reporter or camera person - but through the tweets of the individual soldiers.

For the past few days there are reports the Iran government has been confiscating laptops, cell phones, etc and analyzing historical information on the devices. It is very simple to pull historical information off cell phone SIM cards (for example) and they will be able to track down some of the posters this way. It has also been reported the government is taking a close look at those videos on YouTube and will be identifying some of the protesters this way too. There are also reports of looking at things like Twitter names and tracing IP addresses to ID people. There also may have been a counter attack using social media, hacking Moussavi's Facebook page and posting incorrect information to confuse and upset his supporters.

What can be done? Not much without shutting the entire country down from the rest of the world. I'm guessing tsomeone is taking a serious look at cell phone signal jammers that could shut down cellular communications when things start to get out of control. Sure things can be shut down temporarily but a jammer is not going to stop a user from tweeting or recording video and then posting the content when they do get a connection. It will be very difficult to shut this stuff down for extended periods of time.

So many really smart people have told me they just don't get social media apps like Twitter and I struggle sometimes describing why and how I use them. I'm hoping a lot of people are getting it a little more after the past weekend. Saturday will stick with me and I'll remember it in a way that I remember the first time I saw a color television, used a modem, sent an email and searched the web.

1 comment:

Donald said...

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