There has been a lot of talk over the last year of Obama’s election as the first social media election. And it is certainly true that there is much we can all learn from how Obama used social media as a candidate during the election process. But over the last couple of days we’ve seen another use of social media in elections – reporting on the fallout from the election results in Iran.
The presidential election in Iran was held on the 12th June, between incumbent Ahmadinejad and rival Mousavi. The result was a landslide for Ahmadinejad, and opposition supporters have since been protesting the results. There has been mixed coverage of this in traditional media – with many criticising CNN for its coverage, and the BBC seemingly blocked in Iran as a result of its reports on what is happening.
It is in social media that the wealth and depth of information is to be found. And some of this is quite remarkable:
- Twitter is perhaps the best place to follow what is happening in real time (#iranelection). And it is also the source of some particularly unique insights, such as the Tweet from Mousavi saying that he had been placed under house arrest.
- Blogs allow coverage in more detailed form from bloggers both inside and outside Iran and from all parts of the political spectrum
- YouTube is a source of video content from inside Iran, often in a raw and unfiltered manner.
- Flickr is building a library of user-created images of riots and the aftermath of the election.
In all, the amount of information that is being shared about what happened, and is currently happening in Iran is huge. People are creating content and, thanks to efficient search, others are able to find it.
If Obama’s use of social media showed how candidates can harness it to support their own campaign, and to build their own brand, the case of the Iranian elections shows how the public can use social media to express their own opinion and to show what is happening.
One of the real developments that we are experiencing at the moment online is a exponential proliferation of information. Cases like the aftermath of the Iranian election are a great example of this. We can follow things in real-time thanks to services like Twitter, but we are also documenting the events for the future and doing so through the words, voices, eyes and ears of users themselves. Perhaps that is equally important.