This is a great article that refers to some of the issues I raised in an earlier post about Twitter’s strengths and weaknesses, albeit in a less eloquent way. Perhaps this is why this is Sahar’s Blog, and not Sahar’s Consulting Service!
In times such as these, when emotions justifiably run quite high, it’s important (perhaps more than ever) to keep a clear mind and not to let these emotions make us act or say things we will later regret. The pursuit of justice is an arduous path, and it must be trodden carefully.
Posted on June 15th 2009 at 10h07AM by Patricio Robles
Twitter’s utility as a means to share breaking news is not new. Its track record includes the bombings in Mubai and the landing of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River.
Over the weekend, Twitter became a hotbed for reporting and discussion of the contentious presidential election in Iran.
Twitter was not only used to share information directly from citizen journalists in Iran witnessing protests and government crackdowns but to criticize CNN for not paying enough attention to the situation in Iran. The claims were similar to the claims we’ve seen in the past: citizen journalists using Twitter were beating the mainstream media to the punch.
As an observer who is interested by both new media and old media, I couldn’t help but notice that something was largely missing from the conversation: context.
Like most of the people on Twitter, I don’t live in Iran. I don’t have close friends who live in Iran and I’m not an expert on Iran and its politics. That means that I’m not qualified to judge what is taking place right now. I know that the events transpiring in Iran are important and anytime there are claims of election fraud and government abuse in any country, it’s worthy of attention.
But when it comes to the situation in Iran, separating fact from fiction (and information from misinformation) is very difficult on Twitter.
What we do know: there are lots of people who are upset about the election results and major protests are taking place in Tehran. Some of these have turned violent and the situation in Tehran appears chaotic.
Images from a site called TehranLive.org show dramatic scenes and have been circulating on Twitter. Videos of police hitting protesters have been uploaded to YouTube and have also made the rounds on Twitter. But photos and videos alone offer no context.
Photos and videos are one thing, alleged first-hand reports are another. A number of Twitter accounts appeared to tweet first-hand accounts of the events taking place. But there was little ability to verify these accounts.
How trustworthy are reports from these sorts of accounts? Should we assume that they’re somehow free from individual bias or an agenda? Even if these accounts are ‘real’, which they very well could be, we cannot discount the fact that they’d be bringing us reports from just one of many possible perspectives.
One thing is clear: it’s easy to look at all of the raw information and media coming out of Iran and come to a conclusion based entirely upon who you personally believe is right or wrong. If you believe that a major injustice has taken place, everything you read or view will convince you that the protesters in Iran are simply fighting for what’s right using any means possible. If you believe that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the election fair and square, everything you read or see will convince you that protesters who can’t believe that their candidate didn’t win are fomenting civil unrest and violence.
Or, you might be like me. I’m completely willing to admit that I have absolutely no idea what’s going on and that I’m not going to jump to conclusions based upon unsubstantiated rumors originating from sources unknown with agendas unknown.
Twitter has no doubt proven its worth as a worth tool for sharing raw, unfiltered information. This is particularly useful in the current situation because mainstream media organizations have largely been forced to curtail coverage by the Iranian government. That’s unfortunate but even more unfortunate is the fact that many people on Twitter who are not citizen journalists seem eager to participate in ‘revolution by proxy’. And they’re missing the important facts that aren’t evident from the raw, unfiltered photos and videos they share.
Right now, nobody is kicking butt; everybody is losing. New media is delivering compelling first-hand reports and images but they lack context. Most of the voices on Twitter seem unwilling to apply the rational analysis that synthesizes context. That sort of analysis is supposed to be provided by professional journalists, who we hope and trust will look objectively at the situations they report on. To help us discern truth. Because justice and truth are not mutually exclusive.
What a great article. Makes you think, doesn’t it? And it make this whole ‘independent investigation of the truth’ a lot harder than it seems, doesn’t it?