Tag Archives: iran

Algeria and the flow of words

On the 1st February, we wrote on here about revolutions and the use of Twitter, Facebook and other sites that allow User Generated Content. New information has come to light today identifying Algeria as the latest Middle Eastern country to have had its social networking sites closed down.

According to Mashable (an extremely useful website for journalists who are techy) as well as the Telegraph, the Algerian Government has actually been shutting down individual Facebook sites and closing internet servers and providers.

It’s laughable. I mean, you only have to look at Twitter to see that the message from Mashable has already been retweeted 774 times since the article was written 33 minutes ago and has been liked by 179 people on facebook. As I am sat following the Twitter feeds as I write this, 23 new retweets have emerged.

In Egypt, before President Mubarak was forced to stand down, the Government successfully managed to close down 88% of all Egyptian internet servers. But they’re not the only ones. China, Iran, Thailand and Tunisia have also done the same thing in times of unrest within their respective countries.

This raw footage shows the intensity of the Algerian protests and is first hand user-generated content. Not all broadcasters can afford journalists in every country at every time and therefore independently contributed content for the internet is extremely valuable. The world should be entitled to see what they want to see.

It seems to me as though try as you may to stop people getting on UGC sites and social networking sites, word and cause is strong and will spread. You cannot stop it. Algeria, amongst other nations attempting to stop the flow of independently generated content, is fighting a losing battle.
By Linzi Kinghorn

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Reporting Revolutions: Are we too reliant on Twitter, Facebook and other UGC?

Photo: Maggie Osama via Flickr - Creative Commons License

Egypt has been dominating the headlines and trending on twitter for the last week. The latest in the series of so called ‘twitter revolutions’ that have brought change from Moldova to Iran to Tunisia and is now in the land of the Pharoahs.

But are we overestimating the impact of Twitter and Facebook? Also as journalists as we too reliant on tweets coming through from hard to reach places?

Firstly, Twitter and Facebook don’t bring about or even inspire revolutions, they aren’t out there on the streets egging on protestors. Social Media helps people to shout a little louder and it’s interesting to see that governments are pretty keen to shut them down or block them off (Iran tried and Eygpt plain severed the Internet). But I’m pretty sure that the tens of people that have self-immolated, and the hundreds of thousands that have protested across North Africa these last weeks didn’t do it for the tweets. But as a genuine protest against their autocratic governments based on long term greviances, excacerbated by rising food prices and unemployment.

While Twitter is very useful for real time updates from rapidly emerging situations – how much can we trust what information is put out there?

During the Iranian revolutions when foreign journalists weren’t allowed to enter the country Twitter became one of the key sources of information for foreign news services. But who are we to trust? In his latest book ‘The Net Delusion’ Evgeny Morozov says that twitter and facebook are actually not the ‘freer’ of people but can instead be used to covertly spread disinformation and tighten government control.

So if governments are sometimes using Twitter to further their own aims and severing or shutting down the internet during protests who exactly is getting this information onto the Internet? Blogs, twitter, facebook and youtube are all ablaze with new updates and startling videos.

Yet western journalists who couldn’t reach or didn’t bother to reach people on the ground in Iran, just scrolled down the English tweets searching for #mubarak #egypt or #iranelection and getting whatever info there was. It just seems like lazy journalism.

I accept that Twitter and Facebook are useful for mobilising the diaspora of a nation that is under going rapid political change as well as rasing the international profile of their movement. It just doesn’t seem like it is the best way to report on these events after all wouldn’t most people involved be tweeting in Farsi or Arabic?

**Since posting it turns out that google have introduced a voice-to-twitter service to help Egyptians to continue tweets during the protests.