But the events of the past few days have killed Twitter irony. In a country where "subversive" blogging is punishable by death, Twitter (along with YouTube) has been the go-to to get information about the happenings in the tightly-controlled Iran.
Furthermore, the relevance of the newest of the new media highlights some of the irrelevance of the "traditional" media. The Revolution, it seems, will not be televised – CNN.com didn’t mention the unrest for days. As ReadWriteWeb.com put it:
"Hours after Iranian police began clashing with tens of thousands of people in the street, the top story on CNN.com remains peoples' confusion about the switch from analog TV signals."CNN, the TV Station, provided only regular news reports instead of wall-to-wall coverage akin to the coverage of the Tiananmen Square protests or the first Gulf War – the events which practically made the CNN news channel. If 24 hour news won't provide 24 continuous hours of news coverage on the most important subjects, what, pray tell, is the point of 24 hour news stations?
Instead of covering Tehran, CNN showed a rerun of the Larry King show, where King interviewed the stars of "American Chopper." Now, I get it, sometimes newsdays are slow, and sometimes you need to fill in the gaps. But this was anything but a slow news day.
Now, you could make the argument that Twitter is reporting, among other things, rumors and mistakes. If the information coming out of Iran is accurate, CNN just got shown up by a better news service; if it’s inaccurate, CNN should have been dispelling those rumors.
In contrast, Twitter (the company and service), recognizing the importance of the news from Iran, delayed it’s scheduled downtime so that it can remain available for those Iranians who can still access it.
In the meantime, Iran’s government is doing everything they can to prevent the news from getting out – a futile effort in most cases. Looking at the Iranian Internet services, you can see a clear pattern of additional outages and unstable connections – starting on Saturday. (Kudos to Renesys to making this information available.)
Of course this is encouraging for encouraging the promise of Democracy. For good or ill – in this case, good – it’s extremely hard to fully block comment and communication on the Internet. There are still sysadmins out there who think that blocking YouTube is an effective response to over-subscribed enterprise networks. Iran, a dictatorship, with an army and a nuclear program for crying out loud, can’t block YouTube completely – what makes you think you can?
Iran’s governmental system is interesting because unlike many other world dictatorships, it sets up an expectation of democracy; the idea being that concepts of voting, parliament, democratic representation – they’re not only not foreign to the Iranian culture, but, as we can clearly see from the protests, Iran has one of the most – if not the most – vibrant democratic cultures in the Middle East, in complete contrast to having one of the least democratic governments in the world. Which makes the YouTube and Twitter coverage extremely important - what many Americans are learning from it is that Iran is not a country of extremists and radicals, but a modern, progressive nation with a repressive, barbaric government.
I wish 'em luck.