I’m no expert about the situation in Iran. But as a media consumer, I’ve been fascinated by the unfolding events.
You know the story: Political tumult has been growing since last week’s disputed election. Two-thirds of the country is younger than 30 years old, many of whom support challenger Mir Hussein Moussavi1 in his bid to unseat the incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The Iranian government has tried to restrict online communications through traditional means.
But it hasn’t really worked, due to an explosion of new media sites operating outside the government firewall.While sites like Twitter, Facebook and Flickr are getting a lot of credit for organizing the election protests, Evgeny Morozov warns us not to go overboard in our praise for social media. Writing on Foreign Policy’s “net.effect” blog, he says:
"Overall, I am skeptical about the claims that Twitter has been instrumental in organizing the protests. I grant that it may have been very influential in publicizing them. But I'd like to see tangible evidence that 10 random Iranians found each other via Twitter and – communicating in Farsi –actually planned a rally"
Still, the U.S. government believes in the important role of social media sites. According to CNN’s AC360 blog, the U.S. State Department asked Twitter not to take its site down for scheduled maintenance this week to ensure the stream of information from Iran continues uninterrupted. The U.S. government, CNN writes, is ”paying very close attention to Twitter and other sites to get information on the situation in Iran.”
So there it is. The perfect contrast between one government that is trying to shut down all social media sites and another that is trying to ensure that the sites stay up.
1As a side note, Mousavi was once the editor-in-chief the Jomhouri-Eslami. I can't decide whether that is pertinent to this story of media censorship.