The Whole World Is Twittering

The central role of Twitter in helping to organize the protests in Iran and getting news and pictures out of that country despite the ban ...
by | June 17, 2009
 

Time Twitter cover The central role of Twitter in helping to organize the protests in Iran and getting news and pictures out of that country despite the ban on foreign media attending rallies has already garnered lots of attention.

The Washington Post had a story about Twitter's role today, noting that the U.S. State Department asked Twitter to delay shutting down for maintenance until late at night, Iran time:

"One of the areas where people are able to get out the word is through Twitter," a senior State Department official said in a conversation with reporters, on condition of anonymity. "They announced they were going to shut down their system for maintenance and we asked them not to."

This is obviously "Twitter's war," the way the 1991 Gulf War belonged to CNN, establishing that network as the go-to source for breaking news. In an interesting interview with TEDBlog, NYU communications professor Clay Shirky talks about the importance of social media to this week's events:

I'm always a little reticent to draw lessons from things still unfolding, but it seems pretty clear that ... this is it. The big one. This is the first revolution that has been catapulted onto a global stage and transformed by social media. I've been thinking a lot about the Chicago demonstrations of 1968 where they chanted "the whole world is watching." Really, that wasn't true then. But this time it's true ... and people throughout the world are not only listening but responding. They're engaging with individual participants, they're passing on their messages to their friends, and they're even providing detailed instructions to enable web proxies allowing Internet access that the authorities can't immediately censor. That kind of participation is reallly extraordinary.

The participation, and passive readership, is so extraordinary that, suddenly, CNN now seems like "old media," Shirky suggests:

CNN has the same problem this decade that Time magazine had last decade. They simultaneously want to appeal to middle America and leading influencers. Reaching multiple audiences is increasingly difficult. The people who are hungry for info on events of global significance are used to instinctively switching on CNN. But they are realizng that that reflex doesn't serve them very well anymore, and that can't be good for CNN.

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