Twitter’s reliability as a real-time search engine, and a source of (accurate) breaking news has been debated — but in the case of the civil unrest around the Iranian elections, it has become one of the only channels that the nation’s citizens have able to use to get and receive information updates over the past 24 hours.
Reports that the Iranian government had disabled access to communication channels like Facebook, Youtube and even mobile text messages (via AFP) flooded the blogosphere this morning; tech-savvy users are even finding that their attempts to use proxy servers, which let people browse the web without being tracked by an IP address, are being blocked (per the NYT). Yet throughout the day, pictures of protesters and details about riots and injuries made it out through Twitter.
So when Twitter announced that it had to go offline for about an hour for a “critical network upgrade” later this evening (about midday in Iran), people flooded the network with requests to postpone the shutdown, since it was essentially serving as an information lifeline. (It also came amid criticisms that mainstream media channels like CNN weren’t doing enough to cover the protests). Twitter got its network traffic partner NTT America to agree to delay the maintenance; co-founder Biz Stone noted that NTT recognized the role that “Twitter is currently playing as an important communication tool in Iran.”
Photo Credit: AP Images