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Tehran's Twitter Blackout, Averted

BY Nancy Scola | Monday, June 15 2009

President Obama made a statement earlier today telling protesters in Iran that "they should know that the world is watching" what's happening in that country. But there was a chance for a few hours today that one way the world wouldn't be watching tonight was through Twitter. Twitter, you might have heard, is being heavily utilized to push out information from Tehran, circulate it around the globe, and aggregate commentary from outside Iran looking in. That's why when Twitter Inc., the small San Francisco-based company, tweeted word this afternoon of a two-hour "maintenance window" scheduled for 9:45pm Pacific time in the U.S. -- mid-morning Tehran time -- the reaction was fast and furious. In short, Twitter had attained mission-critical status, and downtime at this time was unacceptable. A rallying point emerged in the form of the #nomaintenance hashtag. It was retweeted, and retweeted, and retweeted again, quickly nearing the top of Twitter's trending list. Twitter dug in its heels: the network maintenance was out of their control and would go on as planned. The storm of tweeted protest continued (with a dose or two of smack talk thrown into the mix: "Say all you want about CNN, at least it doesn't get shut down for maintenance.")

Finally, a break. Just a few minutes ago -- and in a rather striking demonstration of both a user-and-service feedback loop measured in mere hours and the sense of ownership Twitter's users have over the network -- Twitter relented. (Or more accurately, their New York-based network provider did.) "Our network partners at NTT America recognize the role Twitter is currently playing as an important communication tool in Iran," they posted to the company blog tonight. "Tonight's planned maintenance has been rescheduled to tomorrow between 2-3p PST," with a helpful note that that's "1:30a in Iran." (Photo by .faramarz)

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