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Iran: CNN Fail and the rise of the people power on the Internet

This is a  guest post by Mikey

When major events happen in the world, Tiananmen Square, the Gulf War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the first place people have often turned to in the last twenty years or so has been CNN. But what happens when CNN keep repeating the same news broadcast and are not updating the story? In 2009, and in increasing numbers, the public are turning to the Internet. A major beneficiary has been the on line social network site, Twitter. Along with thousands and possibly millions of others, throughout much of the weekend, it was to #IranElection on Twitter that I turned to find out what was happening on the ground in Iran. The “tweets” came through fast and furious, indeed with so many tweets per second, it is not possible to read them as fast as they were being posted, but a sense was obtained. The tweets are obviously unreliable and rumours can be spread via “ReTweets” of false information, but watching “the news” that comes through in lightening speed in this manner is breathtaking.
The Twitterers were ridiculing CNN. One commentator said:

If u are unhappy or don’t believe these facts, u can maybe watch CNN and see same footage over and over again..

The Twitterers were so disgusted with CNN to properly cover events in Iran, that its failure, via the subject #CNNFail became one of the most discussed subjects on that website. Bloggers picked up the story and ran with it. The headline of one blog post simply read:

Dear CNN, Please Check Twitter for News About Iran.

CNN clearly took note of all of this. For as they reported :

At the height of the protests and disorder in Tehran on Saturday and Sunday, Twitter was used to give graphic accounts to a worldwide audience – even if they were a maximum of 140 characters.

Tweets from “Change for Iran” were among several that offered real time updates: “…my friend saying more than 100 students arrested, I can’t confirm this but the numbers are high. bastards just attacked us for no reason, I lost count of how much tear gas they launched at us! …we have now some students with urgent need of medical attention I’m calling out to all ppl who can come here don’t leave us.”

But it was not just reporting the news, the Twitterers decided to take their own little bit of anti-Ahmadinejad action by asking readers to “take down” Ahmadinejad’s web site, jamming it via leaving open a web page that automatically refreshes the website every second. The action was successful and as I write, the server is too busy on Ahmadinejad’s website to allow access. Buoyed on by the success of this action, Khamenei’s website was similarly targetted. As I saw this news scroll through, I was happy to oblige. Whilst Khamenei’s website seems to be back up and running, it was down for a while yesterday. The fact that my own action may well have contributed to overloading this site gave me an immediate sense of satisfaction and it is a testament to the power of the people who use Twitter. It may not be much, but it was a better feeling than simply watching the news on CNN.


Also see the Spittoon.