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A Year Later, How Twitter Was the Revolution?

BY Nancy Scola | Wednesday, June 9 2010

A June 15th, 2009, opposition demonstration in Tehran; photo by Sergio M. Mahugo.

Saturday will be the one-year anniversary of Iran's contest election. On that the occasion, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Golnaz Esfandiari has authored a rejection of the idea that post-election Iran was in some way a demonstration of the power of Twitter. Writing in Foreign Policy, here's Esfandiari:

[T]he "Twitter Revolution" was an irresistible meme during the post-election protests, a story that wrote itself. Various analysts were eager to chime in about the purported role of Twitter in the Green Movement. Some were politics experts, like the Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan and Marc Ambinder. Others were experts on new media, like Sascha Segan of PC Magazine. Western journalists who couldn't reach -- or didn't bother reaching? -- people on the ground in Iran simply scrolled through the English-language tweets posted with tag #iranelection. Through it all, no one seemed to wonder why people trying to coordinate protests in Iran would be writing in any language other than Farsi.

But as much as Esfandiari does reject the "Twitter Revolution" tag (and as a way of getting your head back into the space of that time, recall that it wasn't all that shocking to hear the State Department staffer who called on Twitter to stay up and running described as "the man who saved Iran" -- seriously), she concedes that sympathetic people around the world did use Twitter and its ilk did fuel a short burst of global attention on what was happening in Iran:

Twitter played an important role in getting word about the events in Iran out to the wider world. Together with YouTube, it helped focus the world's attention on the Iranian people's fight for democracy and human rights. New media over the last year created and sustained unprecedented international moral solidarity with the Iranian struggle -- a struggle that was being bravely waged many years before Twitter was ever conceived.

The rest is here. (Relatedly, Amnesty International has just issued a report detailing the "journalists, students, political and rights activists as well as clerics languishing in prisons" one year after the revolution, Twitter or otherwise.)

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