Watch Out for Twitter Hype in the Iran Elections

The revolution may be Twitterized, but it's not clear that's a good thing.

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By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

It may be, as Peter blogged yesterday, that the Iranian revolution will be Twitterized. But it's still unclear what that means and whether that's a good thing. As Michael Crowley points out, people are unhelpfully confusing Twitter the organizing tool with Twitter the reporting tool. And it may be overhyped as an organizing tool. (Andrew Sullivan disagrees.) This actually serves as a good reminder that the diminishment of professional journalism is a bad thing: Reporting involves more than recounting what one has seen or heard—or what you say you've seen or heard.

Joshua Kucera lists a few things that have been "reported" on the Internet that turn out to be not true. "It looks like the Internet is the medium for a lot of unfounded rumors by a lot of (understandably) passionate people in Iran," he writes, adding:

But in the pre-Twitter age, those sorts of rumors petered out quickly if they weren't true. If they were true, then journalists found out about them and reported them as fact. Now, the latter is still happening, which is why the journalists in Tehran now are writing pieces with considerably more nuance than what you see on blogs. But the former isn't true any more - rumors can have a longer lifespan on a network of sympathetic blogs, Facebook postings and Twitter feeds.

The Daily Show did a particularly damning piece, embedded at the end of this post, arguing that CNN is particularly culpable in terms of passing on whatever comes across their transom.

And there's another important thing to keep in mind about Twitter even as an organizing tool: Since it's a public service, anyone can use it or learn from it, even the Iranian government. The Iranians, remember, have used Photoshop (clumsily) in the past (and may be doing so again), so why wouldn't they take advantage of Twitter?

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