Twitter, Data Center Delay Upgrades Rather Than Cut Off Iranian Communications

from the the-power-of-twitter dept

I recognize that it's still fashionable to bash Twitter as being a useless toy for people with too much free time (despite many, many examples of how useful it is for those who use it properly). Yet, for anyone paying attention this past weekend, Twitter has emerged as an amazingly powerful communications tool as to what's happening in Iran, where there are massive protests, riots, rallies and attacks following the disputed re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Iran Twazzup page has had a tremendous wealth of information from inside and outside Iran -- the sort of information that we wouldn't know about otherwise. It's an amazing view into the country that simply wasn't possible in the past. I remember in the runup to the war in Iraq, there were a few Iraqi bloggers you could follow to get a sense of what was going on in the country, but nothing like the massive ability of thousands of people to easily get the word out on what they're seeing on the streets of Tehran and elsewhere. It's really quite impressive, and I'm hard pressed to see how anyone could look at what's coming out of Iran via Twitter, and then claiming that Twitter isn't a useful or different communication tool.

With all that going on, it's fascinating to see that Twitter and its data center partner, NTT, have actually chosen to delay some critical updates, knowing that cutting off communications from Iran just as so many people are relying on it would be a disaster. While this does highlight a separate problem -- about the fact that as Twitter becomes a critical communication channel for some, the fact that it is a "single point of failure" is worrisome. It's definitely something that will need to be addressed at some point.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 16th, 2009 @ 4:39am

    sensationalizing even the stupidest of headlines.

    While this does highlight a separate problem -- about the fact that as Twitter becomes a critical communication channel for some, the fact that it is a "single point of failure" is worrisome.

    Yes, because "@localpolice burglary in progress! 1234 red lane #27! #epiclulz" happens all the time.

    Introducing Mike Masnick, the Bill O'reilly of the blogosphere.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 16th, 2009 @ 7:25am

      Re: sensationalizing even the stupidest of headlines.

      Um, its not really a sensationalist headline. It seems social networking sites and Twitter are currently the only way for some Iranians to communicate at the moment. Christ there was just a newsweek article or something on the high points of GoogleTalk for that same reason.

      Troll else where AC.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jun 16th, 2009 @ 8:55am

        Re: Re: sensationalizing even the stupidest of headlines.

        chat rooms, ICQ, IRC, and thousands of other programs and systems work just as well. Mike mentions twitter only because he currently has a twitter fetish.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 16th, 2009 @ 4:46am

    "I'm hard pressed to see how anyone could look at what's coming out of Iran via Twitter, and then claiming that Twitter isn't a useful or different communication tool. "

    Twitter pretty much looks like IRC on steroids. Tune into a channel, and watch people post meaningless crap most of the time.

    Like any communications tools, it has it's moments. But let's not go overboard here.

     

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 16th, 2009 @ 2:53pm

      Re:

      Twitter pretty much looks like IRC on steroids. Tune into a channel, and watch people post meaningless crap most of the time.

      Like any communications tools, it has it's moments. But let's not go overboard here.


      Except that we don't see Iranians telling the world what's happening via IRC, do we?

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 16th, 2009 @ 5:09am

    "(despite many, many examples of how useful it is for those who use it properly)"

    Could you please provide a tutorial on how to use it properly. I went to check out the all the hype of the Iran coverage but had trouble wading through post after post of dumb blondes rambling on about Iraq.

     

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    Christer Edwards, Jun 16th, 2009 @ 5:39am

    "single point of failure"

    Twitter did a great job initially of starting a new communication medium but it isn't the only place offering such a tool. identi.ca is a twitter-like system based on an Open Source program called Laconica. One major thing that Laconica adds to the "twitter" system is a federated network similar to email. You can post your message on any server and it will propagate your message across any other public Laconica server.

    As it continues to mature I'm sure we'll see many more sites available, all of which can communicate with one another transparently. There is no "central server" or "single point of failure" in a federated system like that.

     

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    Jason K, Jun 16th, 2009 @ 5:53am

    really?

    To the ACs posting about how useless twitter is? Have you guys been following the situation at all? Oh wait, you haven't, you don't like twitter. This isn't about robberies and it isn't about competing with other chat clients.

    It IS about the fact that twitter IS making a difference, right now, helping people communicate when many other methods of communication are being blocked. It IS about exactly what twitter is great at: rapid dissemination of information. You can complain that you don't like twitter, and you can claim that it is trivial in your life, but you can't say that is isn't being tremendously useful to others right now.

     

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      Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 16th, 2009 @ 6:44am

      Re: really?

      You don't get it. These are likely to be folks working for the system currently in place that see Twitter as a threat because it subjugates traditional, sanitized media/news. How in the world are the powers that be supposed to keep us calm and placated when an assload of people can quickly tell us what's happening on the ground.

      Note the difference:

      -Tehran, Protests Erupt Amidst Voter Fraud

      vs.

      @whoever The Rev. Guard just shot a protester in the stomach and stomped him to death! This is crazy!

       

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    Ima Fish (profile), Jun 16th, 2009 @ 6:51am

    If you're going to mention "many, many examples," it might be a good idea to provide at least a few.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 16th, 2009 @ 10:08am

    Too Funny

    I can honestly say I've never been called Fashionable before...

    Thanks Mike!

     

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    Krubuntu (profile), Jun 16th, 2009 @ 4:10pm

    Twitter's Different

    Actually Twitter is different than open source programs or IRC or any other app. Since it can be used solely with SMS (texting) via short codes from any cellphone in the world. So let's say the Iranian Government started shutting down different internet connections or something, people would still have there mobile phones to use Twitter and let every one know what's going on. (Of course that would make them look guilty & I suppose if they could do that, they could block all sms communication as well but it's still different than the aforementioned comparisons.) For an interesting "Twitterer", check out http://www.Twitter.com/persiankiwi

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 17th, 2009 @ 6:46am

    FYI

    An important part missing from the story is that, while it's true that Twitter delayed the downtime for updates, they only did so at the behest of the US State Dept.

    Which makes understanding why Twitter is pissing off the Iranian government a little more understandable.

     

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