Routine Twitter maintenance checks were delayed last week by a few days; despite claims to the contrary, Evan Williams, CEO, insists it was an internal decision.
These repairs were due to be made during off-peak hours in the US which would have been “at a crucial time” in Iran.
The social networking site was used throughout the recent Iran elections by locals who challenged its legitimacy; daily ‘Tweets’ about protests, government actions and casualties almost became a form of news wire.
As Iran’s story is still in development, Williams told Newsnight he wanted to leave the channels open for communication, to allow for “the open exchange of information. It was the best thing for supporting the info flow.”
The US State Department intervened in Twitter’s internal running, the BBC reports. They requested a delay so that regular tweets from citizen journalists would be possible, so that we may keep abreast of any developments.
There has been a significant rise in citizen journalism in recent years – that is, people on the ground taking photos, recording videos and writing stories on daily events in their city. CNN’s iReport is a website allowing everyday people to share stories; Twitter and Facebook have also seen a rise in the number of current events updates they receive from across the world.
US Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Public Affairs Philip J. Crowley stated in a press briefing: “The Secretary has spoken on a number of occasions about how to employ technology to foster communication and to open up processes of government to greater participation, and in the process of doing so…hold these governments to account.
“If that process succeeds, then you have what we consider to be responsible governments around the world. It’s one of the reasons why we’ve focused on social media and new media such as Facebook, Twitter, other things, because we’ve seen on the ground in Iran that this has, in fact, created a different kind of political dynamic and one that ultimately will be beneficial to Iran and other countries.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton added: “And I think there ought to be a way to use interactive media, especially the internet, obviously, and some of the new vehicles like Twitter, et cetera, to report in real time.”
Twitter’s status website reports that maintenance work would start on the 6th of August, and then on the 10th announced that the work would take place “for two hours starting at 12:45 am Pacific on Sunday.”
Twitter was established in 2006, and has over 40 million users worldwide. Users ‘follow’ each others’ ‘Tweets’ – of no more than 140 characters – and can also send quick messages to one another.
Short and snappy ‘Tweets’ and the ability to ‘tweet’ from almost any mobile device, anywhere in the world have led to Twitter leading this new wave of communication.
During the Bombay blasts in November, the Hudson River plane crash in January and the recent elections in Iran, Twitter has delivered news and stories to a global audience faster than agencies based there, the BBC reports.
Williams is adamant however, that “it doesn’t take the place of journalists or news because you still need analysis, you still need verification of this information. It adds another layer to the information ecosystem.”