April 10, 2009

A Twitter Revolution?

For three days last week, students in the Eastern European country of Moldova protested against alleged voting irregularities by the country’s Communist party. The protests ranged from massive demonstrations to violent takeovers of federal buildings and battles with police.

According to several online news sources, the protests were organized through social networking sites, especially Twitter. From TechCrunch:
"In the last 48 hours, students from Moldova have been tweeting, trying to rally others into demonstrating against the communists… you can see the tweets about the demonstration coming in a rapid pace. There are also videos on YouTube of the protest...

Twitter has long-been been a popular platform for breaking news, but this adds a new twist to the powerful capabilities of the micro-blogging service. The protests no doubt would have happened anyway and it is not clear how may of the actual protesters in Moldova are on Twitter. But it seems to be helping both as a coordinating tool and as a way to disseminate information about the events that are unfolding to the rest of the world.

An article on Wired, on the other hand, is more skeptical about the impact of social sites in this event:

"Daniel Bennett, a researcher on new media and conflict, offers a contrarian view on the influence of Twitter. After studying the evidence, he concludes that Moldova's Twitter community is quite minuscule, and its role in organizing the protests has been overstated. "As it stands," he argues, "the Twitter revolution is a myth."

The Moldovan government, however, was worried enough about the impact of Twitter that it charged activist Natalia Morar, one of the Twitter organizers of some of the activities, with “calls for organizing and staging mass disturbances.”

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