While the mainstream media is proving its worth (and its mettle) in its reporting of fast-moving events in Iran, that parallel universe known as social media is a channel for huge volumes of comment and opinion, the type that is more local and niche and which typically doesnâ€™t get the attention of the mainstream reporters.
More significantly, the people in Iran producing such content are normal folk, people like you and me, not media reporters or journalists.
Anyone with a device that connects to a network of some type â€“ which ranges from PCs to phones â€“ can be a reporter in Iran today.
Mashable had a great post yesterday on the role Facebook is playing in communicating messages from main opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, such as this update in his profile on the social network:
Today you are the media, it is your duty to report and keep the hope alive.
Note Mr Mousaviâ€™s Facebook ID (hover your mouse over the link) â€“ whoever set up the account for him took quick advantage of the new Facebook usernames introduced just last week.
[â€¦] The so-called â€œTwitter revolutionâ€ is also proving itself to be far more than that. As we reported earlier, YouTube has also become a source of raw video from the ground, and Mousaviâ€™s latest long-form statement wasnâ€™t communicated as a release to the press: rather it was posted as a note on the candidateâ€™s Facebook page today.
The Facebook post is a direct response to claims by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iranâ€™s supreme leader, that Ahmadinejad received nearly double the number of votes Mousavi garnered. Written originally in Farsi, it was translated in full by the Neo-Resistance blog.
[â€¦] Whatever the outcome of these dramatic events, itâ€™s clear that a seismic shift is taking place in the way we communicate: genies do not easily return to their bottles.
A seismic shift indeed.
Thereâ€™s more, though.
Via Mashable â€“ a Google Maps mashup of embassies accepting injured Iranians in Tehran (click the screenshot to go to the live map).
Mashable says the map, seeded from information in a liveblog on The Huffington Post, is a running list of embassies that are publicly taking in injured Iranians.
I havenâ€™t see any so far. Given that it requires an iPhone to record and then upload that recording and, hence, needs a more sophisticated platform than simply using any phone (mobile or otherwise) to make a phone call, I wondered in a Twitter reply whether a service like ipadio might be more readily accessible to people in Iran.
Ipadio is a service that lets you make a phone call to publish an audio on the web. Not seen any from Iran on that service, either, though [but see update, below].
Whatever the outcome of events in Iran, the influence of individuals with access to the means to communicate their views and readily connect with others â€“ as well as the behaviour of channel owners to flex in response to needs in that country â€“ will be shown to have been milestones.
[Update June 22] A comment to this post yesterday from Claire Thompson on behalf of ipadio saying the company is trying to set up a freephone (toll free) phone number in Iran has now succeeded: a phonecast by ipadio CEO Mark Smith includes details of the phone number anyone in Iran can call to record a comment to the web.
Ipadio has supplied this service to enable all Iranians to freely express their views. To access it, dial… [number listed at website] …. and you will be broadcasting live to the internet. Each call has a nominal time limit of five minutes.
One of the ways to keep track of whoâ€™s saying what about Iran is the #IranElection hashtag. Yet that can seem overwhelming.
Via Boing Boing, hereâ€™s a very nice solution to the overload: Super-filtered #IranElection info for the easily overwhelmed.
On the dark side of things comes news in a Wall Street Journal report today on how Iran’s web spying is aided by Western technology, citing technology experts in Iran and outside the country saying Iranian efforts at monitoring internet information go well beyond blocking access to websites or severing internet connections.
[â€¦] Instead, in confronting the political turmoil that has consumed the country this past week, the Iranian government appears to be engaging in a practice often called deep packet inspection, which enables authorities to not only block communication but to monitor it to gather information about individuals, as well as alter it for disinformation purposes, according to these experts.
The monitoring capability was provided, at least in part, by a joint venture of Siemens AG, the German conglomerate, and Nokia Corp., the Finnish cellphone company, in the second half of 2008, Ben Roome, a spokesman for the joint venture, confirmed.
The "monitoring center," installed within the government’s telecom monopoly, was part of a larger contract with Iran that included mobile-phone networking technology, Mr. Roome said.
"If you sell networks, you also, intrinsically, sell the capability to intercept any communication that runs over them," said Mr. Roome.
A sobering milestone.