Earlier blog posts about “Twitterquakes” and other media travelling at speeds greater than media coverage were an entertaining curiosity. Today that curiosity became an agent of change in the disputed Iranian elections as large numbers coordinate, communicate and corroborate via microblogs.
Within 2 hours of the polls closing in the Iranian election, the “supreme leader” Ayatollah Khamenei rushed to bless President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for winning the election, calling on Iranians to line up behind the incumbent. That’s when the questions began to erupt on the microblogs and mobile phones. How could the challengers lose by such an overwhelming percentage in their home cities? How do you count almost 40 million handwritten paper ballots in two hours and declare a winner? Why shut off mobile phone networks if the election was truly transparent? The iron clerics have a bit of a problem: while they control military, the judiciary and all public broadcasts, the supreme leader would find it difficult to shut down all leaks in an age of proxy servers, satellites, and microblogs. They also have a bit of a problem in that they can’t turn off the country’s collective ability to sniff out obvious bullshit.
It was via Twitter that the written 7 point statement leaflet distributed among the protesters in Tehran today reached the west:
1. Dismissal of Khamenei for not being a fair leader
2. Dismissal of Ahmadinejad for his illegal acts
3. Temporary appointment of Ayatollah Montazeri as the Supreme Leader
4. Recognition of Mousavi as the President
5. Forming the Cabinet by Mousavi to prepare for revising the Constitution
6. unconditional and immediate release of all political prisoners
7. Dissolution of all organs of repression, public or secret
Indeed candidate MirHossein Mousavi has also joined the microblog fray, directing protesters to remain peaceful and determined. The candidate, taking part in the demonstrations himself, has become aware of Twitter’s power to spread messaging helping protesters assemble and avoid altercations with law enforcement. He (or the person managing his Twitter handle) posted a desperate plea to the Twitter team to postpone a scheduled maintenance cycle in order to keep information flowing freely in the face of mobile phone outages:
If you’re wondering, maintenance was rescheduled as requested. Such is the power of the Twitter News Network. Once an early warning system for seismic activity and random flashmobs of no importance, microblogs (and Twitter in particular) have become the message network to turn to when other means of communication are turned off.
Update 5.16.2009 4:26 PM PST: Boing boing’s Corey Doctorow published an engagement guide located here.
Epilogue: the following are a list of active tweeters I’ve been able to find in Teharan. If you’d like to be added to the list, please reply in comments below to add yourself to the list. Best wishes and be safe.
Sajjad A. Mohammed
Iran Election 2009
Bahador Nooraei B.