Readers of this blog have probably noticed the lack of political or religious content regardless of what is happening in the world. I try to avoid topics like these because they are extremely polarizing. Most of the time, people on both sides of the argument have valid points, and there is no clear answer. For the most part, I avoided politics during the US presidential election, but today I wanted to post about the Iran election. Almost everyone has been talking about this topic, and many people have mentioned how this has been a major turning point for Twitter. Those people are wrong.
The Economist says the real winner was an unusual hybrid of old and new media. I beg to differ because new media clearly led the way this time. It was clearly in the lead from the beginning and remained that way for its ability to not just inform (ok, in some cases misinform), but to touch such a diverse audience, to reach out from the screens to the hearts of the people – because everyone was participating in the news, not just watching from afar.
She is somewhat wrong as well, but more because she did not take this far enough even though she mentions the real winner.
The social media community is the real winner. Yes, I mean me, you and all of those people using sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Why are we all the winner? Twitter is the tool that people used to promote news about the election. Did Twitter make this happen? No, Iranians used their cell phones to connect to Twitter and post updates. Did the cell phone companies make this happen? There is a better argument for them, but they have been very silent during much of these events.
The difference here is the people. People connected on Facebook, and notices have been posted on Mir Hossein Moussavi’s Facebook page. If you look at some “old media”, you will notice an interesting contrast. On twitter, people have been posting links to articles and videos. On a site like CNN, even when the story talks about Moussavi’s Facebook page, there are no links to the page in the article.
When websites have been blocked in Iran, people setup proxy servers so that the content was still available. Were these people all Iranian? I highly doubt that. This has been an effort by the people on various sites. Each of these sites was just a tool that was used. People have found ways around publicly posting information, sometimes spreading proxy addresses through Twitter DMs and Facebook messages.
The community continues to power the spreading of information, and that is what is important.
Photo Information: I highly recommend you look at the photos on Flickr where the one above came from. Some very moving images.