Daily Video

June 18, 2009

Iran’s Twitter Revolution

After Iran’s contested presidential election sparked protests and rioting across Iran, social networking Web sites like Twitter and Facebook are playing a crucial role connecting Iran to the rest of the world.

While the Iranian government banned traditional international news organizations from covering the protests in Iran, many are relying on Facebook posts and tweets as direct sources of information about the protests.

In this video, NewsHour correspondent Margaret Warner talks to author and columnist Reza Alsan and researcher Rob Faris about the impact that social media sites are having on Iran’s political scene.

According to Reza Aslan, Iranians are in the midst of two revolutions. “There’s the one on the streets…” says Aslan. “But there’s also a revolution taking place in cyberspace.”

Robert Faris notes that while individual tweets are not necessarily reliable, the overall effect is. “It’s like voices shouting out of a crowd,” Faris says. “We probably wouldn’t want to put too much trust or credence in an individual one, but looking at hundreds and thousands of them, you get a pretty good sense of what’s happening in real time in events.”

Quotes

“[The Iranian government] blocked access to Facebook. They’ve blocked access to Twitter. But what they haven’t relied upon is how much more sophisticated on the Internet the youth culture in Iran is.” – Reza Aslan, author and columnist

“The truth is, is that, in 2009, thanks to these new media technologies, there is simply no such thing as a media blackout any longer. And I do think that that has gone a long way towards, well, let’s say moderating the response of the Iranian regime. I think that they would have been far more violent had they not been certain that their actions would be seen all around the world.” – Reza Alsan, author and columnist “I think part of the issue here is that, in shutting down these communication mechanisms, they come at a political cost. If the current government is fighting for a sense of legitimacy in their actions, then every additional step that they take has a severe cost to it. Could they shut down the Internet? Of course. Will they? I doubt it.” – Robert Faris, Harvard University research director

Warm Up Questions

1. Where is Iran?

2. Name some different social networking sites besides Facebook or Twitter. Do you use them and how often?

Discussion Questions

1. What are your impressions of this discussion? Did it surprise you?

2. How does media in general play a role in politics, protests and activism? How are social networking sites different?

3. Robert Faris says in this video that while individual tweets are not necessarily reliable, thousands of tweets can be. What does he mean by this? Do you agree?

4. See if you can find Twitter feeds, YouTube videos, or blog posts coming out of Iran. What are your impressions of them?

Additional Resources

Read the transcript

In-depth Coverage: Governing Iran

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