Posted by: sean | June 19, 2009

The revolution will not be tweeted

tweety sylvesterI’ve been getting kind of annoyed with the salacious Iran coverage, the endless rumors of rumors whose only source are twitter “tweets.” This in a country where about two-thirds of the population don’t even have access to the internet.

Also, as is often the case, overnight, when something sexy happens somewhere everyone and his brother is suddenly an expert, regardless of if they speak Farsi, know anything about the country or have ever set foot in Iran.

So I was happy to read this little bit of cold water splashed on the twitter revolution:

Yet my zeal for Twitter knows a limit: Unlike several other technology-friendly journalists, I’ve found it more noise than signal in understanding the Iranian upheaval. I’m not saying that there is no signal to be found; I’m just saying that my cognitive colander isn’t big enough to strain out Iran information I can rely on. Slate contributor Joshua Kucera made this point two days ago in True/Slant, compiling an early list of erroneous data points about the Iranian uprising that Twitterers were circulating: 3 million people demonstrating against the regime, the house arrest of Mir Hossein Mousavi, and the annulment of the election by authorities, for instance.

Now, before the millions who herald Twitter the CNN of the people, an essential tool of democracy, and a terrific tip-line for journalists hunt me down and have my Internet connection ripped out of the wall: Relax. I follow you. I’m not setting up a 140-character straw man to knock him down. I appreciate, as Atlantic Senior Editor Andrew Sullivan wrote in his blog, that many of the reports are “more about the mood than hard fact.” But my appetite for mood is easily sated while my appetite for hard fact isn’t. If we should be able to criticize Ayatollah Ali Khamenei without fear of being shot, so, too, should we be able to scrutinize Twitter.


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