Twitter is the medium of the moment. Very quick and free, it’s built to spread. It’s about communication and although it might have been intended in simply private contexts initially, in the networked, surreally flattened world of social media, private and global aren’t as far apart as they might have previously been. What began as the numerous networking platform, was suddenly put in much more serious uses.
After the election in Iran in 2009, cries of protest from supporters of opposition candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi began to arise on multiple platforms, but the loudest ones were heard in a medium that didn’t even exist the last time Iran had an election.
As the Iranian government cracked down on traditional media after the discontent from the election results, a handful of tech-savvy citizens turned to Twitter.
The use of #iranelections hashtag remains a powerful example of social media to overcome government restrictions on censorship.
In a country, many would label a still-developing one, the Internet was still a phenomenon only familiar to the young and liberal citizens. The non-connected were a majority.
And still, against all odds, they were taking their voices online and stating: “This revolution will be blogged.”
And while Twitter simply started off as a tool for protest coordination and distribution of information, in a society where the offline citizens were a majority, word of mouth was still an influential tool.
Twitter might have not been ideal for rapid protest communication but more than well did it play its role in utilizing observers in other parts of the world.
Eventually, the mass march through Tehran had become the trending topic on Twitter worldwide. On Monday the subject of Iran dominated Twitter by 98 per cent. An astonishing online presence.
So many labelled it the “Twitter Revolution”. But was it, in fact?
The definition is, arguably, rooted in the idea that social media was the lifeblood of the Green Revolution. Yet Twitter was no secret weapon that made the Islamic Republic disappears. It was the Iranian people that did.
Social media was more of a tool to win solidarity and gain interest, rather than a core tool behind the organisation of the protests. It was more of an outside, that an inside tactic.
And although it would be romantic to say Twitter organised singlehandedly the protests, it did contribute to make the Green Revolution one of the first major events to be broadcasted globally almost entirely online.
Twitter didn’t start the protests in Iran, nor did it make them possible. But there’s no doubt that it encouraged the protesters, reinforced their beliefs that they are supported and brough the violence of Tehran streets to the forefront of the geopolitical conversation, in an immediate way that was never possible before.