Twitter may not be able to freely monetize Twitter diplomacy, but its characteristic of how much influence 140 characters and broadcasting across the Internet can have.
Tweeting is a great way to share thoughts and information with friends and followers, as long as you stay safe, keep it civil, and most importantly, be interesting. We know that information spread via Twitter has saved countless lives, from natural disasters such as in Japan or in humanitarian crises, such as in Cote d’Ivoire. Twitter has contributed to regime change in repressive places. It has even helped free a prisoner in Kashmir and has become a valuable network for citizen journalists and concerned citizens, such as in Mexico. It is a medium by which human rights advocates carry forward their work, such as our Eyes on Syria project (look for #EyesonSyria — but maybe not if you are in Syria), or Amnesty’s own Twitter account.
However, a big part of the story is the pervasiveness and influence of the messaging service. Compared with Facebook, with over a billion users, Twitter is a midsize town, with about a quarter of the audience. But the town is buzzing and spinning the news at high speed and frequency as events around the world unfold, such as the historic phone call between the President Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, marking the first time U.S. and Iranian leaders have directly communicated since the 1979 Iranian revolution.
Moments before the US leader officially announced he had a phone chat with his counterpart, Iranian president Rouhani had broken the news on Twitter. The stunning 15-minute call was the fruit of a diplomatic opening forged by Rouhani’s election in June on a mandate to ease confrontation with the West and lift nuclear sanctions that have pulverized the Iranian economy. US believe that world now faces a grave threat from the radical regime in Iran. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued a report saying Iran had not suspended its uranium enrichment activities. This report opened the way for UN Security Council sanctions against Iran.
But, the recent Twitter Diplomacy can be fruitful for the peace in Middle East. Describing his phone conversation with President Obama as “historic,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani took to Twitter with a series of fascinating messages that stunned and encouraged many foreign policy observers. “In phone convo, President # Rouhani and President @ BarackObama expressed their mutual political # will to rapidly solve the # nuclear issue,” Rouhani wrote to his 64,000 plus followers.
“Enemies of the Internet”
Rouhani’s account appeared on Twitter after his election this year and his English-language messages have become a sign of Tehran’s diplomatic outreach. The leader has been sending a steady stream of tweets during his visit this week the UN General Assembly in New York.
However, for the people of Iran, accessing or participating in that conversation is not easy. Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook have been blocked since the anti-government protests in 2009. Rouhani has talked about easing the restrictions but so far they have not been officially lifted.
Internet censorship in Iran has been increasing. In the first few years of the 21st century, Iran experienced a great surge in Internet usage, and, with 20 million people on the Internet, currently has the second highest percentage of its population online in the Middle East, after Israel. When initially introduced, the Internet services provided by the government within Iran were comparatively open. Many users saw the Internet as an easy way to get around Iran’s strict press laws. Internet censorship increased with the administration of conservative president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005. Regime opponents in Iran are said to rely heavily on Web-based communication with the outside world.
Many bloggers, online activists, and technical staff have faced jail terms, harassment and abuse. In 2006 and again in 2010, the activist group ‘Reporters without Borders’ labeled Iran one of the 12 or 13 countries it designated “Enemies of the Internet”. Before the US invasion of Iraq, the country used to suffer from extremely poor Internet connection as well as filtering and censorship practiced by state authorities. This resulted in low Internet penetration since citizens where cautious about online activities. After the invasion, it was expected that telecommunication sector will grow rapidly; however, on the contrary, it went through slow improvement for years characterised by new emergence of hacking and spyware apps that were spread out across the networks.
Social Media and Internet Rights
Unprecedented recent progress in information and communication technologies (ICTs) is enabling people and organizations to overcome personal and regional restrictions on information acquisition. The Internet and social media are particularly important for facilitating access to an unparalleled wealth of information, as well as providing opportunities for new innovative activities and social interactions. The Internet, new media and social media have become a way of life for many citizens. These new forms of communication are affecting the lives of people, who are using them in many areas. These new tools are both instant and accessible. Freedom of expression, freedom to protest and privacy are fundamental human rights. Freedom of expression also consists of dissent. Social media have changed communication and organization styles considerably. Social media is not a “menace” to society, but in the contrary, they are group of tools that are highly valuable for the society. And, thus we can hope that the Twitter Diplomacy will play a huge role for the peace of Middle East.
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