Learning from Iran’s Twitter Revolution

I thought the title of the article was interesting, Learning from Iran’s Twitter Revolution, until I read the subtitle, “China, Iran, and France are all teaching lessons about broadband access that we in the U.S. need to hear.” Huh?  Twitter is the ultimate narrow-band internet application. You can only send messages of 140 characters. Iranians using Twitter doesn’t exactly make the case of the U.S. to get more broadband internet. 

So how does the author argue that ultimate narrowband internet application show us that we need more broadband?  Beats me, he never bothered to make the connection other than to write of Iran’s “Internet empowerment.” That doesn’t exactly provide the U.S. with an example. Instead he writes:

The Internet has heavily affected democracy in the U.S., too; Barack Obama’s campaign used YouTube, social networking, and e-mail to excellent effect. But the Iranian protests show a fissure in their society that we could do well to learn from. The vast majority of Tweeting and FriendFeeding going on in Iran comes from opposition supporters, who are more urban and wealthier than the Iranian population as a whole. What we’re seeing online may not be a properly balanced debate, because of different levels of access.

The lesson: a digital divide in a society directly impacts how democracy is conducted. The people who are online get more of a voice than the people who aren’t. If we’re serious about true democracy, we need to ask how we can get the Internet out to the 27% of Americans (according to the Pew Internet & American Life project) who don’t yet have it.

Obama used the internet well as a candidate, but he hasn’t as President. As a candidate he promised to post bills online for a five days before he signed them. But, as President he ignored this inconvenient promise, in part because he didn’t want people to see all of the crap in the stimulus bill.

By why does broadband matter? I don’t know. Mr. Segan continues:

  I’d love to say that dialup is just as effective as broadband. But just as the iPod popularized MP3 players by making digital music easy, broadband makes the Internet easy enough for many people to use. That means digital democracy has to be about broadband, not just about the Internet.

Broadband is nice and makes using the internet easier, but the thesis of this article is supposed to be how we are to learn from Iran’s Twitter revolution. Iran didn’t need broadband, according to the author, they needed Twitter—the ultimate narrowband application.

Broadband is great and the Iranian’s use of Twitter is great. But how much has Twitter use in Iran really mattered? How much does our perspective matter? He aren’t getting a lot of video from Iran, but we are getting a lot of Tweets. How does that affect our view of the importance of Twitter use inside Iran?