Social networking websites are fast becoming the backbones of the new media. Twitter has over the years proven to be a “good” source of news from locals and not only feeds from mainstream media houses. The skirmishes surrounding the just held elections in Iran has whipped up a lot of interest in the use of Twitter if not doubled it users. Most of the news updates I am getting from Tehran in Iran are from twitter followers – some directly on the ground and others monitoring from other media sources.
According to an article from PCmag.com “the most spectacular example of Internet empowerment at the moment is in Iran. Protesters against the recent election results have been organizing and publicizing themselves on Twitter, even as the Iranian government keeps trying to whack this democratic mole: first shutting down text messaging, then blocking some IP addresses, then trying to hunt down individual Tweeters.”
About 10,000 to 50,000 tweets mentioning “Iran” have been sent over the last few days, according to US blog Mashable and data from the trend tracker Trendrr. SkyNews reported that the statistics suggest 2.25 million blog posts were written about the country in the last 24 hours, a significant sign of the way the political crisis in Tehran has captured the attention of a global web audience. But in a single hour on Wednesday, more than 220,000 messages on that topic were sent via Twitter.
This clearly show that the Iranian government is on a wild goose chase. They cannot easily block twitter users. Most tweeters (Twitterers) are mobile internet users communicating out on the street. The Iranian “twitter protests” have caught international headlines making tweets from individuals look much more credible than from mainstream media houses.
However, there are several security and credibility implications to Iran as a country and the consumers of those tweets. In as much as those news (tweets) are playing almost the same primary roles – educating, informing, entertaining (may be not this time) – as the known news outlets those behind might have a different agenda.
Twitter opposition supporters in Iran are not insulated from manipulating the real fact on the ground just to achieve political agenda or settle political score. Tweeters (Twitterers) around the world especially in the US and UK in solidarity with Iran are also changing their profile location and time to assume they are situated in Iran to send out “potentially-informative” messages. The situation has striped naked twitters vulnerability to spread wicked rumours around the world.
Just on Wednesday morning, twitspam.org released fake profiles being used by alleged undercover security agents in Iran to achieve specific goals. As events unfold in Iran coupled with the new media revolution, it is becoming alarming the extent to which people can use social networks and the new media to achieve an aim.
Just as twitter is playing a meaningful role to inform about happenings around the world, it also remains a crucial manipulative tool to destruct.
This article forms part of an ongoing discussion on Manipulated Fact mooted by InWent and being moderated by Kent Mensah – editor of AfricaNews.com in Accra, Ghana.