Posted by: blackvector | June 15, 2009

Social Networks May Help Iranian Protesters

Well the elections in Tehran have once again highlighted the use of Social

Protester in Iran. Note the woman holding a cell phone in the foreground.

Protester in Iran. Note the woman holding a cell phone in the foreground.

Networking on the world stage. I can’t help but wonder how much of a non-story this would be if it was not for the fact there are people on social networks providing the world information in real time. In discussing Iranians taking their story online, CNN highlights what many news orgs are starting to write about: Social Networking is having an impact on the world by highlighting events in real time, without censors monitoring and blocking the information. The CNN article is here. A couple of months ago, I wrote about the uprising in Moldavia, which is disputed in terms of whether or not social networks played a role. I was not too concerned about that since it did generate a thought in my mind. As a military public affairs practitioner, it is becoming increasingly clear that we need to be engaged in social networks. The latest struggle in Iran highlights the need to integrate social networking into military plans, if we do not, we could conceivable be at a serious disadvantage in future operations.

Consider that right now on Twitter @mousavi1388is sending out information about where to meet and protest the election results in Tehran. Now, I have no way to verify if this is actually him or not, but the tweets seem to line up with when CNN reports protests in Tehran and the pictures he post of Flickr are definitely from Iran. Here are two sample tweets from his account:

“الله اکبر از بالای پشت بام ها . Tonight & every night 9-11pm, “Alaho Akbar” from rooftops. #IranElection”

“#IranElection MOUSAVI IN TEHRAN NOW (PHOTO): http://www.flickr.com/mousavi1388”

Clearly someone is using Twitter to not only let the world audience know what is going on, but also to organize those within the country of what to do next. A Twitter-organized protest seems to have actually come out of this one. The use of Flickr to post imagery is also interesting; they are able to bypass official sensors on media outlets by going direct from a mobile device to the Flickr website. Guess the Iranian network watchers don’t know about Flickr. Unconfirmed reports from Iran claim that FaceBook as well as opposition web sites have been blocked in that country. Of course that does not apply if your service provider is not Iranian-based going through official state routers. Information always has a way to surface.

As said before in earlier posts, public affairs entities must plug into social networks and capitalize on the leverage they can provide. But it has to be a conversation. Not a one-way press release as often times it has become. The control of the information is no longer there for us and we can’t really target audiences with specifc information — PA must adapt to put out its message rather than have someone do it for us. We can be assured, if we’re not talking on social networks, someone will do it for us.

Smilar post from Gwynne on dot-gov is here.

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