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Twitter power - or people power?

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Robin Lustig | 23:18 UK time, Wednesday, 17 June 2009

You'll have seen the suggestions, I suspect, that the remarkable scenes in Tehran and other major Iranian cities are a manifestation of a new phenomenon known as "Twitter power".

(Twitter, m'lud, is a method of communicating short messages via mobile phone or online, popular, apparently, among the urban young in Iran.)

I try to remain open-minded about new forms of communication (why else, after all, would I be blogging or on Facebook?), but I hope I am allowed by BBC impartiality rules to be mildly sceptical.

Where was Twitter when millions of people took to the streets of Manila in 1986, to put pressure on Ferdinand Marcos to quit?

Where was Twitter in central and eastern Europe 20 years ago to nudge Communist rule into the history books? Or in Tiananmen Square? Or more recently, in Kiev, or Tbilisi?

Of course, it's true that it is much easier now to spread a message than it was before the days of mobile phones or the internet. And I think the video footage taken on ordinary Iranians' mobile phones has genuinely added to our understanding of what is happening there.

But I am yet to be convinced that Twitter has done the same. Richard Sambrook, the BBC's director of global news, has written a useful piece about the pros and cons here -- and there's more useful background, plus links, on the BBC News website here.

Saeed Barzin of BBC Monitoring and Persian TV gave Ritula Shah his thoughts on tonight's programme. Click below to hear the interview.


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