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Legba Carrefour responds to Azmat Khan

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Legba Carrefour

Azmat Khan asked:
"Who Decides If Social Media Is Relevant?

I'm also very interested in the question of who (or which audience)
decides whether social media from a country is relevant, particularly
in politically volatile places like Iran, Pakistan, or Kyrgyzstan. Of
course, the Iranian election brought unprecedented global attention to
social media use in the country. Why can't the same be said for
Kyrgyzstan? Sarah Kendzior of Registan.net does a wonderful job
raising these questions in this post, arguing that social media users
in Kyrgyzstan were ignored because they were writing for a local
audience. I'd love to get your perspectives on this.

I just wanted to chime in on how key this is. There's a clear
prioritization of what social media gets repeated to certain
audiences. With Twitter, in the US at least, the network is dominated
by a lot of 30-something "urban sophisticates", often employed in the
IT industry or part of the "creative class", whatever that means. It
gives a really specific bent to what information you see.

Iran is a really fascinating look at this question. During the initial
uprising, the State Department actually intervened to convince Twitter
to reschedule network maintenance so the information could keep
flowing out. Then, during the G20 demonstrations in Pittsburgh last
November, Pennsylvania police burst into the hotel room of two guys
running a comms center, sending out information about the publicly
known movements of police. They got arrested, charged with felonies,
and sent on their way. Days later, federal prosecutors showed up their
house and turned the place upside down. The reasons behind the raid
are still secret and part of a grand jury proceeding.

If you're interested in the case, there's a ton of information up at
http://friendsoftortuga.wordpress.com/

So you've got a situation where a government that's pretty publicly
opposed against the government of another country deliberately
encourages information resonance across a network turns around and
suppresses the same network use within its own borders. I'm a huge
booster of what's happening in Iran, but that's a pretty creepy
dynamic.

posted February 2, 2010

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