Wednesday, June 17, 2009

U.S. Government to Twitter: Please no Fail Whale during the Iranian Election Crisis

As Iran is working to restrict access to the media in light of the recent election uproar, the U.S. government has responded in a rather unusual manner: According to news reports, the State Department asked Twitter to move its scheduled maintenance to a different time in order to allow Iranians to tweet about the ongoing crisis:Twitter acquiesced to the State Department's request and issued the following statement on its blog:
When we worked with our network provider yesterday to reschedule this planned maintenance, we did so because events in Iran were tied directly to the growing significance of Twitter as an important communication and information network. [...] It's humbling to think that our two-year old company could be playing such a globally meaningful role that state officials find their way toward highlighting our significance. However, it's important to note that the State Department does not have access to our decision making process. 
Looks like the State Department has come to understand  the importance of social media in times of crises. The governments of countries such as Iran, China, and Myanmar should have learned an important lesson too: that restricting access to the media no longer works to crack down on dissent. Governments trying to control all information flow are facing the same reality as businesses trying to control all branding messages - they are fighting a losing battle. Despite Iran's efforts at blocking social networking sites and threatening Internet users, Iranian citizens have managed to post pictures of the unrest to the Internet,  upload videos to YouTube, and post their stories to Twitter and Facebook. And now that traditional news outlets (banned from reporting directly from the scene) are relying on these social networking services in their reports, the story does get out. Maybe even in a more authentic way?

1 comment:

Daksh said...

Hi Corinne,

Very well said !

No matter how hard the government authorities try to regulate the usage of new-media tools, the real-users will always figure out some alternate techniques of expressing themselves.

As an example when 'Twitter' was banned in China, smart-users knew that they could still gain access through some proxy site.

The bottomline is that the government authorities need to understand the concept of the tremendous control users have on these mediums like twitter, blogs etc. The more they try to restrict the usage the worse it will become.