ANagler Thesis | Mir Hossein Mousavi | Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Iran’s Green Revolution: Did Twitter Matter?

Alex H. Nagler, Charles B. Ward, Steven Skiena, Helmut Norpoth

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Emerging media is an international phenomenon. The electorate in developed and developing democracies have new sources of information available to influence their decision making process. One emerging trend is that of the citizen journalist. Limited by bandwidth and characters constraints, citizen journalists can now participate in the democratic process in new and perhaps influential ways. The purpose of this article is to explore this impact: Does Twitter influence elections? To discuss this, we must examine the conditions that existed on the ground in Iran leading up to the election on June 12, 2009 and the immediate aftermath that followed the announcement of the results. From there, we will examine the Twitter messages, or tweets, themselves from a period between June 18 and June 27. This database, approximately 450,000 tweets, was obtained through the aid of software developer Karsten Januszewski and his archival program The Archivist. It compiled all tweets bearing either the hashtags of #iran or #iranelection. The majority of the tweets are in English, with a sizable minority in either Romanized or standard Persian. The examination, done through Professor Steven Skiena’s TextMap analysis, will determine what information was passed through the media and was then compared to events on the ground in Iran. We will examine the moods, frequency, and timeframe of various terms. Finally, we will attempt to answer the question: Did Twitter matter?.

I. Influential Players

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Iran's 2009 presidential election took place on June 12, 2009. Incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad faced off against Mir-Hossein Mousavi, Mohsen Rezaee, and Mehdi Karroubi. The results of the election were announced the next morning, stating that Mr. Ahmadinejad had successfully defended his post and won approximately 63% of the vote. Ahmadinejad had hoped that this would satisfy people and the affairs of the state would continue to function normally. He had hoped that people would accept this number and continue with their day to day lives. He had hoped all of these things, but what happened instead shocked not only Iran, but the entire world. To understand the situation on the ground in Iran on June 13, one must first understand the events that lead up to it and the structure of the Iranian government. In order to run for President in Iran, a candidate must first be approved by the Guardian Council. This council, formally the Guardian Council of the Constitution, is comprised of six religious scholars and six jurists whose job it is to interpret the constitution and oversee all elections1. Under the text of the 1979 Iranian Constitution, the Council’s official duty is “to be maintained so that it may continue in its role of guarding the revolution and its achievements. The scope of the duties of this corps and its areas of responsibility, in relation to the duties and areas of responsibility of the other armed forces, are to be determined by law with emphasis on brotherly cooperation and harmony among them.2”

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http://www.aei.org/article/28594 The Army and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. The Constitution of Islamic Republic of Iran," Sec. Three. Nagler 3

This allows the Council the power to overturn laws created by the legislature for being either against the laws set down by the constitution of Iran or against the laws of Islam. Through their power as arbiters of the election, the Council took an initial field of “more than 450 Iranians, including 42 women3” and whittled it down to four candidates. These candidates, by nature of being handpicked from a larger pool, are not radicals and are people whose views and opinion are known to the Council. For 2009, the four candidates were the incumbent, a former prime minister, a former Speaker of parliament (the Majilis), and the former Commander of the Revolutionary Guard. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the incumbent president, had been elected in 2005 on promises of economic reform. A central aspect of his candidacy had been the promise to make it so that the immense petrol-based wealth that Iran sat on found its way to the public4. He differentiated himself from the pool of candidates by coming out strongly against both the United State and the United Nations. In an interview with the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, he railed against the UN Security Council, declaring that “The Muslim world should be allowed a chance in the UN Security Council, where certain groups now possess the right to veto. We consider this privilege essentially wrong. It is not just for a few states to sit and veto global approvals. Should such a privilege continue to exist, the Muslim world with a population of nearly 1.5 billion should be extended the same privilege.5”

3 4

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8058884.stm http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/2006/06/divideandempower/ 5 http://www.iranwatch.org/government/Iran/iran-irna-ahmedinejad-interview060805.htm Nagler 4

Ahmadinejad surprised most candidates when he came in second, trailing by1.5 million in the first round of voting. This forced a runoff between himself and former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who had become a reformist with age. Rafsanjani, who was expected by many to be the frontrunner for the position due to his past experiences in Iranian government, was defeated by over 7 million votes in the second round.6 As would be later seen in the 2009 election, controversy immediately followed Ahmadinejad’s victory. Charges of fraud were very quickly raised by reformist candidate Mehdi Karroubi, who had placed third in the initial round, that forces were mobilized to illegally garner support for Ahmadinejad. These forces included the Islamic Revolutionary Guard and the Basij militia, who are supposed to remain impartial to politics and serve only the Supreme Leader and the Ayatollahs. In a letter Karroubi wrote to accompany his resignation from all political posts7, he went as far to allege that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s son was involved in what he and other likeminded groups now saw as a conspiracy to install Ahmadinejad to the post of the presidency. Mir-Hossein Mousavi was the last Prime Minister of Iran before the position was abolished after the end of his term in the late 1980s. He had retired from politics after Supreme Leader Khomeini’s death and the rise of Supreme Leader Khamenei. He found himself an outsider to the new regime and went into a self-imposed retirement, which some saw as his silent opinion on the new regime under Khamenei.

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http://psephos.adam-carr.net/countries/i/iran/iran20052.txt http://www.bbc.co.uk/persian/iran/story/2005/06/050619_mf_hashemi_statement.shtml Nagler 5

After rumors that he would run in 2005 were found to be false, Mousavi had officially emerged from retirement on March 9, 2009 to run as a candidate with the Reform party. His main grievances were against Ahmadinejad's nuclear policies, which he felt had left Iran internationally. However, it must be noted that Mousavi himself is not anti-nuclear. Much like Ahmadinejad, he maintains that Iran’s nuclear program is only to be used “for peaceful purposes.”8 He spoke out against the welfare state that Ahmadinejad had created, criticizing the “alms-based economy”9 fueled by oil revenue from Iran’s petroleum fields. Because his views were similar to many conservative candidates, some reformists initially saw Mousavi as non-viable candidate. Regardless of their opinions on his credentials, those in the party were obligated to accept him when eight days after announcing that he was running, Mousavi's main reformist rival, former President Mohammad Khatami, withdrew himself from the race and put his support behind Mousavi. Khatami claimed “Despite differences in our opinions and actions, the important thing is that Mousavi seriously defends and will defend the fundamental rights and freedoms of people and the country's international reputation.”10 With this newfound support, Mousavi became the main reformist candidate, even if his proposed policies were still more conservative than the party itself. What neither Mousavi nor Iran were expecting was the massive populous support that would be lent to Mousavi in the days leading up to and following the election. But to understand where

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http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8060304.stm#mousavi http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=87734 10 http://www.rferl.org/content/Khatami_Pulls_Out_of_Presidential_Race_Backs_Another _Reformist_Candidate/1511548.html Nagler 6

these supporters came from, a brief detour must first be made to discuss the demographics of the nation of Iran.

II. Under 30

The Islamic Republic of Iran was founded in 1979, 30 years prior to the protests that would break out over the election. The median age of the country is 2711 and it is believed that approximately two thirds of the entire population is under the age of 3012. This population distribution can be attributed to the fact that although the new regime issued a fatwa in favor of contraceptives in 1979, the contraceptives themselves did not become widely available in the country until a decade later, after the end of Iran-Iraq war. This war saw a need for the population of Iran to increase dramatically to make up for casualties incurred on the battlefield, so a baby boom mimicked the duration of hostilities. Once the war was over, there was no longer a need for the massive hikes in population, so the government worked to discourage large families by placing restrictions on things like maternity leave for couples who had over a certain amount of children. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s International Database13, the birth rate of Iran in 2008 is now only one third of what it was two decades ago in 1988. But this leaves 60% of the country under 30, knowing no other government than the current form and feeling oppressed.

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https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ir.html http://www.slate.com/id/2220390/ 13 http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/idb/country.php Nagler 7

Fortunately for these young Iranians, there has been one reliable outlet to voice their frustration with the way things are in their country. Iran has been referred to by some online sources as “A Nation of Bloggers.” It has been estimated that there are over 700,00014 blogs in the country. Blogs are used not only by dissidents, but also by the government and the religious authorities as well. For many Iranians, blogs provide an outlet to discuss things that are otherwise censored by the government and not permitted to be discussed elsewhere. Due to the prevalent use of blogs by Iranians both inside and outside of Iran itself, Persian is the fourth most widely used language on the Internet. Blogs are not the sole use of the Internet by young Iranians. Many of them are also on Facebook. An estimated 150,00015 Iranians log on to the social networking site and use it to converse with their countrymen. In the events following the election, Mousavi issued his calls to protest by means of his page on Facebook and his Twitter feed. However, in the days leading up to the election, the government of Iran shut down access to Facebook approximately four weeks prior to the election,16 but relented and restored access once it became widely known that they were blocking it. Finally, there is Twitter, the subject of this paper. Prior to June 12, Iranians used Twitter the way that everyone else used Twitter. It was a medium for relaying humorous websites, funny photos, strange comments, and on the rare occasion, share news about things in real time. Leading up to the election, candidates used it to notify supporters of upcoming events, like the much watched televised debates between the candidates. These debates, the first of their kind, helped Mousavi cement his image as the chief reform
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http://www.columbia.edu/itc/sipa/nelson/newmediadev/Iranian%20Blogosphere.html http://www.euronews.net/2009/06/12/youth-could-sway-the-vote-in-iran-election/ 16 http://www.pcworld.com/article/165448/facebook_blocked_in_iran_ahead_of_elections .html Nagler 8

candidate in the eyes of some voters by declaring his reform ideas directly to Ahmadinejad17, charging him with putting the country “on the brink” and alleging that a second term of his policies would “push Iran off the cliff.” Mousavi faulted Ahmadinejad, again to his face, of “living in a realm of make-believe in which the West is in decline and the Holocaust never happened.”

III. The Vote

These statements, combined with the recent appearances by his wife and fellow reformist Zahra Rahnavard, did much to draw younger voters and women to his side. Women were attracted by statements like "We should reform laws that treat women unequally. We should empower women financially, women should be able to choose their professions according to their merits, and Iranian women should be able to reach the highest level of decision making bodies.18” This marked a major departure from the rulings of the clerics, and when combined with his wife’s statement that “…we should prepare the ground for an Iran where women are treated without discrimination” showed supporters that he was serious. The supporters responded, adopting the Green color of Mousavi’s campaign in droves. Men and women began wearing green ribbons around their wrist and green headscarves. Leaflets were passed out asking passers-by to “vote for change.19” Analysts began predicting that a heavy turnout would be a favorable sign for Mousavi. One went

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http://www.rferl.org/content/In_Iran_The_Election_Is_Being_Televised/1752228.html http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8075603.stm 19 http://www.webcitation.org/5hAJtahRw Nagler 9

as far to predict “"If more than 32 million votes are cast, the possibility that Ahmadinjad will not win is over 65 percent, But if 27 million people or less vote, the likelihood of a change is less than 35 percent." Polls were originally supposed to close in Iran on June 12th at 6pm local time. Due to high turnout and long lines, voting hours were extended until 10pm to accommodate all those who wished to cast their ballots20. One hour after the polls closed, Mousavi declared that “I am the definite winner oft his presidential election”21 and that this declaration was based off of election monitors reports from polling stations22 across the country. Two hours after the polls closed, Iran’s state-run media declared Ahmadinejad the victor by a landslide based off a sample of 8,000 ballot boxes, or approximately 5 million votes. From this sample, Ahmadinejad was seen to have received 69 percent of the vote to Mousavi’s 30 percent. At 8am local time on June 13, it was reported that Ahmadinejad had received 18 million votes to Mousavi’s 9 million. In the west, these numbers were greeted with shock and disbelief. Commentators ran the result numbers looking for evidence of fraud, ranging from those in academia to people on the Internet with knowledge in statistic. One American blogger, Nate Silver, wrote about the statistical impossibility of the correlation of the votes and the timeframe23 based off of data from American primaries to discover a near perfect determination coefficient that was bereft of any variance. To further this statistical discussion, Professor Walter Mebane of the University of Michigan, who had done electoral forensic work in his examination the overvotes in
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http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/13/world/middleeast/13iran.html http://washingtonindependent.com/46872/moussavi-declares-victory 22 http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/06/2009613121740611636.html 23 http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2009/06/statistical-evidence-does-not-prove.html Nagler 10

Florida in 200024, cited Benford’s Law and stated that “results give moderately strong support for a diagnosis that the 2009 election was affected by significant fraud”25. Benford’s Law states that in listings, tables of statistics, and in the case of Iran, voter turnout by district, the digit ‘1’ tends to occur with a probability of 30%26, more than the 11.1% (1 digit out of 9) then would be expected. Mebane took the town level returns for the 2005 and 2009 elections and discovered a large number of outliers in regards to towns that supported Ahmadinejad more than they statistically should have. “In fact, however, 60 of the 81 outliers represent vote counts for Ahmadinejad that the model wholly fails to describe. Among those outliers 35 observations have positive residuals—Ahmadinejad did much better than the model predicts…27” Mebane goes on to hypothesize that “Considering that overall Ahmadinejad’s vote counts have second digits that differ very significantly from the Benford’s Law expectations, the small range of departures for Ahmadinejad’s votes indicates that the ballot boxes that have very few invalid ballots have great influence on the overall results. The simplest interpretation is that in many ballot boxes the votes for Karoubi and Rezaei were thrown out while in many ballot boxes extra votes were added for Ahmadinejad.28” This hypothesis was echoed by various tweets who claimed to see the extra boxes or knew someone who had a hand in disposing of Mousavi or Karoubi boxes. This evidence was combined, with other facts that did not require statistical analyses to be brought to light, provided foreign observers with information to consider

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Mebane, 2000 Mebane, 2009 26 Benford 27 Mebane, 2009 28 Ibid Nagler 11

the election to be suspect. Ahmadinejad did well in places he was geographically not supposed to. He won the city of Tabriz, the capitol of the native province of Mousavi and a city that has voted for native sons regardless of their party affiliation, with 57% of the vote.29 He also won Tehran by over 50% despite having polled poorly in all major cities in the lead up to the election. The Guardian Council confirmed on June 21 that “that the number of votes collected in 50 cities surpass the number of people eligible to cast ballot in those areas.30” The Internet smelled fraud and was not afraid to blog about. But these discussions were the talk of Western countries that didn’t have to deal with the immediate effects of the vote. Meanwhile, in Iran, things began to happen.

IV. Protests: June 12 to June 27.

Those in Iran at 8am on June 13 did not have the luxury of dithering over numbers. Instead, they took to the streets. June 13 marked the first day of protests. These protests, centered predominantly in the capitol city of Tehran, were peaceful in their nature. Supporters of Mousavi decided to wear green, the color of his campaign, and chanted “Marg Bar Dictator,” or “Down with the Dictator”31 as they marched through the streets of the city. Meanwhile, Mousavi took to the internet to urge calm from his supporters, calling on them “to subject any individual or groups to hurt” while maintaining that he “strongly protest the many obvious violations and [I'm] warning [I] will not surrender to this

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http://www.juancole.com/2009/06/stealing-iranian-election.html http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=98711&sectionid=351020101 31 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8099115.stm Nagler 12

dangerous charade.” It was also at this time that Mousavi made a request over Twitter that would come to define the movement. At 2:44 PM on June 13, @mousavi1388 (1388 being the Persian year equivalent of 2009) tweeted “ALL internet & mobile networks are cut. We ask everyone in Tehran to go onto their rooftops and shout ALAHO AKBAR in protest #IranElection32.” The significance of shouting “Alaho Akbar” from a rooftop is that in 1979, supporters of the revolution against the Sha were asked to do the exact same thing. This was a way for people to let one another know they supported the revolution while attempting to mask their identities through night and simultaneously bolster the morale of those working on the ground. Throughout June and July, videos would be uploaded to YouTube with dates affixed of the previous night’s chanting3334. A video claiming to be from the June 13, after the initial tweet35, provides commentary. It notes the significance of the chants and the relevance to the 1979 revolution and states that mobile phones and the Internet have been shut down in an attempt to silence any dissidents. Videos like this, combined with tweets and photographs, are the primary sources of the movement and make for the bulk of what is known about on the ground conditions in the days immediately following the election. June 14 saw the protests grow in size, and with these increased numbers came more violence. Al Jazeera refered to it as “biggest unrest since the 1979 revolution”,36 also noting that violence had increased alongside the size of the protest. “I saw riot police

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http://Twitter.com/mousavi1388/status/2156978753 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VyigfGE1dLU 34 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sax1zuarxHg 35 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YS-a_ryhqNA 36 http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/06/2009613172130303995.html. Nagler 13

hitting students with sticks. I saw students - or young people - throwing stones at the riot police, trying to knock them off their motorcycles.” Over the course of the day, rumors emerged as to what the actual tally of the votes were37 along with allegations as to what was done with the ballot boxes38. Allegations ranged from ballot boxes being tampered with prior to their arrival to those that simply never arrived at the counting stations, with one user on Twitter commenting “My Father has a truck load of ballot boxes that were to be burned in the back of his truck.39” Later that night, a familiar scene from a decade prior played out once more. On July 9, 1999, dorms at Tehran University were laid siege by plainclothes members of the Basij40, or Mobilization Resistance Force41. The Basij are the volunteer paramilitary force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and are subordinate to the Supreme Leader. In 1999, they were called in to crush a peaceful student demonstration concerning a reformist newspaper. In 2009, they were called in to try to put down a larger movement that was not solely student based. In 1999, students did not have the means to communicate what was going on until after it occurred, and those accounts were marred through recollection. In 2009, the siege was reported in real time. One user, @Change_for_iran (whose whereabouts are still unknown), reported the events as they unfolded. At approximately 4:30am on June 15, Iranian Time, he was hit with teargas in his dorm room at Tehran University42. From

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http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/06/the-real-results.html http://niacblog.wordpress.com/2009/06/14/election-unrest-day-two/ 39 http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/06/tweets-from-the-greenrevolution.html 40 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/828696.stm 41 http://www.globalsecurity.org/intell/world/iran/basij.htm 42 http://Twitter.com/Change_for_Iran/status/2170987475 Nagler 14

there, he frets that the “the entrance door is completely destroyed and there is no way of barricading it. #iranelection43” and tries to stop one of his friends from venturing outside. Around 6am, he gets word that “forging department students captured 2 Ansar troopers and moving them to another building! #iranelection44”, which was followed shortly thereafter by a cessation of hostilities. In response to the attacks on the dormitories, professors from one university resigned en masse45 to protest the treatment of the students the night before. June 15 also marked the first public appearance of Mousavi since the election, drawing an estimated crowd of 100,000 green clad supporters. In contrast, Ahmadinejad held a rally the previous day to celebrate his victory in front of a much smaller crowd46, praising the accuracy of the election and decrying those who sought to disrupt the peace. He criticized those who protested the day before, noting “Some want elections, freedom, a sound election. They recognize it only as long as the result favors them.” Mousavi’s rally, though peaceful in nature, was marred by violence, with several demonstrators killed by armed basij. Protestors started bearing their bloodied hands for the cameras of both professional and amateur journalists who managed to get the photographs out of the country. June 15 was also the first comment from President Obama, who addressed the protestors directly, stating, “…the world is watching and inspired by their participation, regardless of what the ultimate outcome of the election was. And they should know that the world is watching.47”

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http://Twitter.com/Change_for_Iran/status/2171103931 http://Twitter.com/Change_for_Iran/status/2171928141 45 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/06/14/iran-election-live-bloggi_n_215449.html 46 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8099501.stm 47 http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31365097/ns/world_news-mideastn_africa/ Nagler 15

American intervention remained at this level, observance but no direct intervention, for the duration of the protests. The government did not want to formally back the protestors for fear of making it appear as if the root of the unrest was American intervention. The only major step taken by the United States occurred on June 16, when the State Department worked directly with Twitter itself to keep a scheduled maintenance from occurring at the prescheduled time. The company had originally planned to go down during a time that would be daylight hours in Iran, but the evening in the United States. Despite numerous requests from users, they maintained that “it's been scheduled by our hosting provider and we're unable to postpone it.48” This planed downtime would have disrupted the flow of information out of the country and been detrimental to the protestors, so the State Department stepped in. It is unknown how high up the request came from, but through their intervention, the outage was moved to 5pm Eastern Standard Time, which would be 1:30am in Iran. Twitter noted that they “recognize the role Twitter is currently playing as an important communication tool in Iran.49” The State Department confirmed their involvement, commenting, “We highlighted to them that this was an important form of communication.50” In postponing their maintenance, Twitter showed why it was valuable. Twitter users have the ability to update their accounts in multiple ways. Normally, it is done directly through a computer or mobile device connected to the Internet, but it is also possible for users to update their profiles through the text message function of a cell phone. While cell phones were sporadically jammed in Iran, they were not taken down

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https://Twitter.com/al3x/status/2183208517 http://blog.Twitter.com/2009/06/down-time-rescheduled.html 50 http://gawker.com/5292892/state-department-to-Twitter-no-fail-whale-for-iran Nagler 16

for the entire months of June and July. In a Washington Post article, IT analyst Rob Enderle commented that “Iran would either have to shut down text messaging on a oneto-one basis, a tedious and time-intensive process, or shut down text messaging throughout the country.51” Because of this, Twitter’s value was the fact that it allowed the people on the ground to send their Tweets, which were subsequently echoed through various ReTweets by those following the original sources. It did not matter that those disseminating the information lacked Internet access. The message got out. In Iran, June 16 was another day of massive protests. More professors from various universities in the country resigned in protest of the invasion of dormitories. In the holy city of Qom, the Guardian Council met to discuss whether or not they should call for a recount of the votes52. They also planned to examine the claims that the election was rigged and informed all candidates that the proper way to voice complaints was through legal channels, not through massive street protests. Mousavi refused to accept these offers, which he saw as an attempt to placate him, and demanded new a new round of elections. June 17 saw an interesting form of protest by the Iranian National Football Team. During a World Cup qualifying match against South Korea in Seoul, several members of the squad wore green wristbands to protest the events at home53. This match was broadcast, uncensored, on state run television in Iran. The bands remained on for the entire first half of the match, but when the players returned to the pitch after the half, the
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http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2009/06/16/AR2009061603391 _2.html?hpid=topnews 52 http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/17/world/middleeast/17iran.html?_r=1 53 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/5559871/Iranian-footballteam-shows-support-for-Mousavi-with-green-arm-bands-at-Seoul-World-Cupqualifier.html Nagler 17

bands were gone. A week later the official newspaper of Iran reported that “four players – Ali Karimi, Mehdi Mahdavikia, Hosein Ka'abi, and Vahid Hashemian,– have been "retired" from the sport after their gesture in last Wednesday's match against South Korea in Seoul.54” The match may have resulted in a draw and kept Iran from advancing to the World Cup, but this did not stop another large-scale demonstration from occurring in Tehran. June 18 is the first day the dataset provides information for. It was another day of protest – this time, demonstrators marched silently to mourn those who were killed on June 15. The purpose of this rally was purely propagated over Twitter through tweets like ‘2Millions ppl have gathered in Haftetire Sq&instead of saying any slagons carry flags writen on it My silence is more powerful than ur club” and “Today's Tehran protest will be silent/vigil style, protestors wearing black55.” In response to the size of the rallies, the Guardian Council met again to discuss Mousavi’s complaints. Mousavi, along with Karroubi and Rezai, were invited to speak with the Council to air their grievances56 and address the 646 complaints about the legitimacy of the vote. Meanwhile, also as a response to the rallies, Ahmadinejad called the protestors “dust.” A statement was quickly issued to state television clarifying the remarks. “I only addressed those who made riot, set fires and attacked people. Every single Iranian is valuable. The government is at everyone’s service. We like everyone.57”

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http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jun/23/iran-football-protest-ban http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/06/livetweeting-therevolution.html 56 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8108115.stm 57 http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/19/world/middleeast/19iran.html Nagler 18

June 19, a Friday, was significant as it was the first Friday Prayer session since the election was held. Friday Prayers are televised events lead by the most influential clerics in the country. These are used to advance the ideology of the party. Normally, these are tirades against America and Israel. June 19’s prayer was lead by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Khamenei declared “enemies and dirty Zionists tried to show the election as a contest between the regime and against it58.” Accusations of fraud were false: “There is no cheating inside the election system - it is well controlled. Perhaps 100,000 votes, or 500,000, but how can anyone tamper with 11 million votes.” He closed by threatened the protestors, noting “…street demonstrations are a target for terrorist plots. Who would be responsible if something happened?59”, finally adding that the candidates protesting the vote would be “responsible for bloodshed and chaos” if the demonstrations did not cease. Khamenei’s words made it clear that he wanted the protests to stop immediately and for all those protesting to acknowledge Ahmadinejad as the victor. In response, Mousavi’s website called for a rally the next day in Enghelab Square at 4pm. Khamenei’s words were backed with action as Mousavi’s headquarters was attacked by plainclothes police officers who, along with “the commanders of the revolutionary guard ordered him to stay silent60.” In a statement, Mousavi’s spokesman Moshen Makmalbaf reported, “All those close to Mousavi have been arrested, and his contact with the outside world

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http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/20/world/middleeast/20iran.html http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/06/khameneis-threat-whowould-be-responsible-if-something-happened.html 60 http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jun/19/iran-election-mousaviahmadinejad Nagler 19

has been restricted. People rely on word of mouth, because their mobile phones and the Internet have been closed down.” Hearkening back to the 1979 Revolution, Makmalbaf recalled “Thirty years ago we supported each other. When police used tear gas, fires would be lit to neutralise its effects. People would set their own cars on fire to save others. Since then, the government has tried to separate people from one other. What we lost was our togetherness, and in the past month we have found that again. All the armed forces in Iran are only enough to repress one city, not the whole country. The people are like drops of water coming together in a sea.” The June 20 protest was still on, no matter what Khamenei wanted. June 20 is the day that humanized the events in Iran for people around the world. In a statement issued by a physician who would later flee the country, at 7:05 pm61, a young woman by the name of Neda Agha-Soltan was standing on the corner of Khosravi St. and Salehi St. We would not know any of these things if what happened next was not caught on video tape. Agha-Soltan, or Neda as she would become known in the following days, suddenly collapsed and began to bleed profusely, slipping out of consciousness. Her last words are “I’m burning! I’m burning!” A doctor in the crowd, the same one who issued the statement, rushed to her side to try to staunch the bleeding with his hands as a man standing next to her screams “Neda, don't be afraid. Neda, don't be afraid. Neda, stay with me. Neda stay with me!62” Blood begins to pour out of her mouth and nose and those around her start screaming. In a second video, a Basij officer is singled out, pulled from his motorcycle, and disarmed63.

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An identity card on his person confirms that he is in fact a member of the Basij. Protestors take his photograph, confiscate his weapon and identification, and let him go as he shouted “I didn’t want to kill her.” Neda’s death was one of many to have occurred in the protest, but it was caught on tape and uploaded to the Internet. It quickly became one of the most watched videos in the world, with even President Obama condemning the violence and addressing the video directly during a press conference three days later64. Neda became the voice of the movement, due in part to her name literally translating to the word “voice” in Farsi. The government began attempting to counter the story as soon as the video got out to the foreign press. Twitter provided sarcastic commentary on the various proposed gunmen who killed Neda, with everything from “State TV deems Neda’s killing ‘staged’”65 to a paper announcing that “Neda was killed by the expelled BBC Reporter Jon Leyne.” Eventually, the agreed upon story became that Neda’s death was caused by a foreign operative who also planted the videographer to rouse foreign resentment and “strengthen the enemies of Iran.” June 21 was a quiet day in terms of protests, but a day filled with foreign bickering between Iran and the embassies of Britain, France, and Germany. A BBC reporter, Jon Leyne was expelled from the country for “distortion of news regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran and particularly news pertaining to the election66,” though the BBC office in Tehran remained open. The BBC countered that it had noticed “persistent interference” to the quality and strength of their signal.
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This may have something to do with the aide that European embassies were providing protestors. For the first few days, Twitter had been a tool to spread information as to which embassies were willing to take in injured protestors and treat them. Eventually, the Basij and Republican Guard figured this out and soon the messages of which embassies were helpful turned into messages warning against going to any embassies, noting “all foreign embassies surrounded by militia to stop people from going in.” The next few days were relatively quiet in terms of protestors inside of Iran. Outside of the country, protests headed by groups such as Amnesty International at Iranian foreign embassies and public meeting places. The British embassy in Iran evacuated the family members of all embassy officials and warned against non-necessary travel to the country on June 2267 after the Iranian ambassador in Britain had been summoned concerning Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s remarks that Britain was now Iran’s “most treacherous68” enemy. British citizens living in Iran were warned that “further violence is possible.” The Guardian Council concluded their investigation of any suspected fraud on June 22 and certified Ahmadinejad as the victor69, cutting off any legal avenues of protest by Mousavi. He remained defiant in a note posted to his Facebook, stating, “The country belongs to you. The revolution and the system is your heritage. Protesting against lies and cheating is your right. Be hopeful about regaining your rights. Do not allow anyone who tries to make you lose hope and frighten you make you lose your temper."

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http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jun/22/iran-embassy-staff-families-evacuated http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jun/19/iran-elections-ayatollah-ali-khamenei 69 http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/06/21/iran.election/index.html Nagler 22

As stated earlier, President Obama commented on the Neda video on June 23, the same date that the Iranian football players received their lifetime bans for wearing green wristbands. The Iranian government ordered the family of Neda to remove their black mourning banner, along with banning any public memorials or funeral processions70 to keep her from becoming a martyr in the eyes of the people. Physically, the next four days proceeded without any major incidents on the streets of Iran or in diplomatic channels. One senior cleric, Ayatollah Khatami, called for the execution of protest leaders, declaring them to be “at war with god” and that “Anyone who takes up arms to fight with the people, they are worthy of execution71.” Sensing that protestors needed a symbolic gesture of support that could not be easily stopped by police, Mousavi posted to his Facebook on June 25 declaring that the next day, June 26, would be “Balloon Day.72” ““Ok, now all the world are going to show their supports to Iranians… This Friday, We all are going to send GREEN BALLOONS to the sky to show that now ALL PEOPLE OF THE WORLD ARE IRANIAN. On 9/11 everybody was American, NOW THE WORLD IS IRANIAN.” As requested, people all over the world launched balloons into the sky at 1pm, their local time. The protests continued past June 27, but that is the last day of relevant data for this examination. Small protests were a daily routine, but the large mass-scale protests occurred only on special occasions, some of which coincided with anniversaries of events for the 1979 Revolution.

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http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article6561253.ece http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/feedarticle/8579273 72 http://niacblog.wordpress.com/2009/06/25/iran-updates-june-25/ Nagler 23

V. Database

The database for this project is not of my own doing. I did not mine the tweets during June of 2009, nor did I apply the coding to make the tweets usable for research purposes. Were it not for the serendipitous access to the work of the creators of The Archivist and the immense help of the TextMap team, this project would have likely never gotten off the ground. But both things came to pass, and fortunately this project exists. The tweets themselves come thanks to Karsten Januszewski, a developer for Microsoft and MixOnline. Mix creates, among other things, open source software and labs that it allows users to tinker with. Karsten decided to run one of their programs, The Archivist, in June on the term “Iran” to see what he would get73. The way The Archivist works is that it uses Twitter’s own search functionality to look for the requested input and mines the most recent 1500 (this is the current maximum allowed by Twitter) results every ten minutes74. This ten-minute period can be shortened with a manual refresh, as if there have been more than 1500 tweets between the two search periods, there may exist a gap in the data. The tweets themselves can be exported and saved into .xml format, or extensible markup language, which allows multiple things to be done. Karsten used his tweet database to “created a tree map that showed who the top 100 people were who tweeted the most about this topic.” He was most interested in seeing who were the most active people tweeting about Iran. From there, he created an

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image where the size of a users icon was relevant to the number of times they had tweeted about Iran over the course of his investigation. This image, Figure 1, is available at the end of this paper. I contacted Karsten in October 2009 to ask him for his raw data to try to work on it on my own. He willingly provided it to me, and that began my attempt at trying to mold this data on my own with little to no knowledge of coding. After several false starts owing to my lack of knowledge in the languages of Python and R, Professor Norpoth came up with the idea of approaching Professor Skiena and the TextMap team. "TextMap, a product of Stony Brook University’s computer science department, claims that its job is “Monitoring the world so you don’t have to.75” TextMap came out of the Lydia Project, which seeks to “seeks to build a relational model of people, places, and things through natural language processing of news sources and the statistical analysis of entity frequencies and co-locations.76” It takes large chunks of information, normally news articles from a selection of over 500 daily newspapers, and seeks to determine “the temporal and spatial distribution of the entities in the news: who is being talked about, by whom, when, and where?77” To do this, TextMap’s pipeline searches for text by means of various spiders they have searching the news sources for information. They classify the information based on type, and then send it to the name recognition software. This marks up a sentence to determine the relevant data concerning people, places, and things. The phrase “Charleston, WV: Polls are open in West Virginia, and election officials

75 76

http://www.textmap.com/index.htm Lloyd, Kechagias, and Skiena 77 Ibid Nagler 25

said things are off to a smooth start. Hillary Rodham Clinton is expected to beat rival Barack Obama by double digits, and score another victory in next week’s Kentucky Primary” becomes

Figure 2: Marked up Text after being run through the Lydia analysis78. This markup allows the system to determine the people (Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama), things (polls), and places (Charleston, WV) so that the analysis can effectively comprehend the relevant portions of the statement. For this project, the system had to be modified to recognize the @ character before a name to be part of the name, given that in Twitter, messages that are rebroadcast, or retweeted, include the relevant users name (ex: @Nagler). The # character also had to be added as a relevant term, as # is the symbol for hashtag, which allows users to post comments on a given topic and tag them for easier search. This was seen by the prevalent use of #iran, #iranelection, and #gr88 in tweets concerning the matter. These modifications, along with all the coding to turn the .csv formatted database of the tweets, were done by Postdoc Fellow Charles B. Ward. Charles also added a list of terms that were not otherwise recognized by the system, but were prevalent in the messages emerging from the country. These included different spellings of names of people and organizations and things that would not otherwise have been picked up by the spiders, like ‘hospital,’ ‘motorcycle,’ and ‘radio.” A full list of these terms is available at the end of this paper in Appendix 2.

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Once the data was entered to the system, it underwent juxtaposition, synonym, and spatial analyses. The juxtaposition analysis examines how entities relate to one another. Lydia does this by assigning a score for any given entity in regards to the other entities that appear along side it. “To determine the significance of a juxtaposition, we bound the probability that two entities co-occur in the number of articles that they cooccur in if occurrences where generated by a random process79.” This process allows for the analysis of how closely related two things are, like the BBC and Ahmadinejad. Synonym analyses are necessary to ensure that things like Barack, Obama, Barack Obama, President Obama, and other various incarnations of names apply as the same thing. This is helpful in the dailies, but as will be discussed later, fails to capture some of the spelling discrepancies for names, such as habit of some users of calling Ahmadinejad ‘Ahmadi’ or adding a second ‘s’ to Mousavi. Finally, the spatial analysis allows for an examination of where things are being discussed. It shows that there exists “geographical bias among primary news sources which permits us [Lydia/TextMap] to construct maps of relative interest in particular entities.80” This is predominantly of interest for newspapers or blogs with a defined location. During the protests, it was not uncommon to find people giving their location as Tehran to be in solidarity with those protesting or for those who actually were in Iran to use port forwarding software to make it appear as if their information was not coming out of Iran. Finally, there is the sentiment analysis that TextMap conducts. This “determines the public sentiment on each of the hundreds of thousands of entities that we track, and

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Kil, Llyod, and Skiena Mehler, Bao, Wang, and Skiena Nagler 27

how this sentiment varies with time.81” To do so, the system can track “the reference frequencies of adjectives with positive and negative connotations,” juxtapose the sentiment terms “with world happiness levels to score entity sentiment,” and in certain specific cases, analyze the correlations with several real world events, like sports results, stock market performance, and the seasons to measure public sentiment. Otherwise, it’s done from a word list of positive and negative terms. From there, the polarity strength of the word is determined by its modifiers to give the item a score for both its polarity and subjectivity. Once the text is coded, TextMap’s use is in the fact that it is a tool that can be utilized to answer questions. These questions range from the large ones, like did Twitter factor in shaping the protests in Iran and did the protests themselves impact the view of Iran on the international community to smaller ones like what was perceived to be the most useful foreign media service or what was the most frequently mentioned YouTube video for the duration of the period. Thanks to TextMap’s software, these questions are answerable

VI. Results

Before discussion on how those inhabiting Twitter saw Iran can begin, the question of how the media felt about the country must first be dealt with. This is not accomplished by examining Twitter, but by examining the opinions of the 1,000 to 2,000 daily newspapers TextMap indexes. To do this, a juxtaposition analysis is run on the

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Godbole, Srinivasaiah, and Skiena Nagler 28

word Iran from January 1, 2009 to May 31, 2009, the months leading up the election. The results of this are shown in Figure 3, below:

Figure 3: References to Iran in Daily Papers, 1/1/09 to 5/31/09 As shown in Figure 3, prior to the election, the main events being reported about from Iran in 2009 were nuclear ones. Israel is the top reference, with uranium as number 9, North Korea as number 10, Pakistan as 19, and jailed American journalist Roxana Saberi at 15. Mahmoud Ahiadinejad appeared as the number 6 entry, beneath other regional players, Israel, Iraq, and Syria. Figure 4 was derived under same criteria as the one before it, but from the duration of June 1 to June 12, 2009. This is the lead up to the election during the debate period when Mousavi surged in the polls due to his performance and his outspoken

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rhetoric on women’s issues and foreign policy. Subsequently, he became the fourth most talked about issue in the country while Ahadinejad became the most discussed issue in the aggregate of the daily papers.

Figure 4: References to Iran in Daily Papers, 6/1/09 to 6/12/09 Foreign policy took a back seat in the country while the election moved to its conclusion, but it was still a pressing matter. Obama’s rise to the third most talked about issue, above Mousavi, indicates that this was still of great import, even with the election under way. Figure 5 is the references to Iran between June 12 to June 27, 2009. This is the voting period, the period of the first wave of unrest (uncatalogued by the Twitter database), and the period studied in the Twitter database.

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Figure 5: References to Iran in Daily Papers, 6/12/09 to 6/27/09 Regional politics has taken a back seat. For the first time in 2009, the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has become relevant to the global conversation. The Revolutionary Guard has become noteworthy, as has Twitter. The surge of Twitter, over Israel, Iraq, and foreign protests (as referenced by Italy) is noteworthy as it is the first time the service has entered a discussion of the geopolitics of the region. One other point of order is the presence of “Mir.” TextMap still has some tweaking left for the algorithms that identify foreign names, an issue team about which the team is fully aware. The recognition software of names is best served to pull out European or Asian names. The Middle East is lumped with the entire continent of

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Africa82 in terms of naming. Prior to this project, this was not a problem, but due to unfamiliarity with the names of the region the system made errors like failing to lump the multiple potential spellings of names together or assigning the hyphenated first name of Mousavi its own entry. While the daily newspapers were reporting on their own stories, Twitter had its own independent narratives. Figure 6, seen on the next page, shows the related terms to the #iran hashtag between June 17 and 27 2009, the duration of this database for the iran2 database, which had those messages that began with RT removed. It is divided into thirds to show the evolving importance of items for the duration of the database. One of the initial observations for this chart is the relatively low ranking #mousavi has. He is never one of the top 5 terms, despite being the reform candidate, and he is eventually eclipsed by #neda by the end of timeframe. #neda is an interesting case as it becomes the second most important term by the end, save for #iranelection. The rise of #neda is an interesting take on a woman whose death became a symbol of a movement.

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Figure 6: References to #iran on Twitter, 6/12/09 to 6/27/09

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But is the rise of Neda’s popularity something exclusive to the Internet or did it filter into the conventional media as well? To test this, a frequency tabulation was run on the term Neda from June 20, her deathdate, to June 27 in both the Iran2 and Dailies database. The results of this are found on the next page in Figure 7. This shows the rise of Neda in terms of both the individual frequency and the references per million. The first noticeable difference between the two is where Neda starts. Twitter sees the impact of Neda a full day prior to the mainstream media. This may be due in part to the fact that Tehran is GMT +3.5, or a full 8.5 hours ahead of New York City and a large number of the American dailies that TextMap indexes. Twitter’s immediacy allows for people to start talking about the event the moment it happens, which in this case, was the moment it was initially uploaded to YouTube. The media waits until the day after the death to report on the story, and that reporting was based predominantly on the online reaction to the video. The reaction to Neda on Twitter was an immediate spike followed by a decline, then rise to a plateau in interest. The daily newspapers expressed the most interest on June 25, the same day that Iran’s Ambassador to Mexico told Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room” that he thought the CIA had a hand in Neda’s death. 83 The appearance of a new take on the already existing narrative live on basic cable would most definitely lead to more coverage of the story.

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http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2009/06/neda-cia-cnn-killing.html Nagler 34

Figure 7: References to (#)Neda in the Iran2 and Dailies databases.

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It is obvious that Twitter was far more invested in the plight of Neda than the mainstream media was. The day with the lowest interest in Neda on Twitter, June 22, was still higher than the most interested day for the dailies. Twitter held more interest in both the frequency of references and references per million. Of those tweets concerning to Iran, a substantial number of them reference #neda. This is seen in Figure 6 (the three), where Neda’s rise eventually brought her to be the second highest figure in the entirety of the Iran tweets. Neda is also an interesting case in regards to the importance of the hashtag (#). Neda as herself is a much less popular entity than #neda. Figure 8 shows Neda as simply Neda, which yields a similar spike, but is accompanied by a dramatic drop off in references as #neda became the more prevalent use of the name.

Figure 8: References to Neda on the Iran2 database

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Neda serves as the central crux for many entities on the Twitter feed. It was through her death that many items received the majority of their references. The Basij, the Iranian paramilitary organization that receives orders from the Republican Guard, see their spike on the day after Neda’s death, as shown in Figure 9, when blame began being assigned for the death. Figure 9 shows this spike and its subsequent decline.

Figure 9: References to the Basij on the Iran2 database

The basij had been referenced before, mainly due to their actions against protestors and students in the days immediately following the election, as detailed earlier in the paper. Neda’s presence, as shown by her rise in the standings, became the main catalyst for many items Twitter presence. Another entity whose appearance is predominantly Neda based was the CIA. Their major date of interest is June 25, when, as previously discussed, the Iranian ambassador to Mexico alleged on the Situation Room that the CIA were the ones Nagler 37

responsible for Neda’s death. As shown in Figure 10, the CIA spikes only on the 25th, despite there being claims by figures within the country that the CIA had been responsible for not only Neda’s death, but the entire protest movement.

Figure 10: References to the CIA on the Iran2 database

There had been criticism prior to the actual election from within the Revolutionary Guard and religious circles that Mousavi’s backers had Western support, stating “The presence of supporters of Mirhossein Mousavi on the streets are part of the velvet revolution [the peaceful 1989 Czechoslovakian revolution]. Any kind of velvet revolution will not be successful in Iran.”84 Unfortunately, one of the more interesting features of TextMap was proven to be unusable for this project. TextMap has the ability to detect the sentiment towards a certain item based on the words accompanying it. Normally, these words are clear indicators of how the author feels about the topic and are factored in with all other pieces on the matter to determine the overall sentiment. With the Twitter database, this is practically impossible. To show why, Neda will serve as an example.

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http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE5592OM20090610 Nagler 38

Figure 11 shows the sentiment graph for Neda. Due to technical difficulties on TextMap’s part, #Neda does not have a sentiment graph.

Figure 11: General Sentiment for Neda in the Iran2 database

As is seen in the graph, the negative connotations of Neda outweigh the positive ones, despite Twitter being nearly uniformly in favor of Neda. This is due to the words that accompany Neda whenever she is referenced. Words like “murdered,” “death,” “killed,” “shot,” “blood,” and “revenge” tend to tilt the sentiment to the negative. There are examples of the sentiment system doing what it is supposed to. Iran itself trends overwhelmingly positive, as seen in Figure 12. This, once again, is due to the words that accompany Iran whenever it is referenced. The one word that mainly affects the score is “freedom.” This word, used frequently in the opening days of the protests when there were large crowds at the protests, outweighed any instances of “death” or “torture.”

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Figure 12: General Sentiment for Iran in the Iran2 database

One of the interesting things learned from the database is how little attention was paid to the actual people involved in the political side of the protests. Grand Ayatollah Kahmenei (Figure 13) receives few mentions on any day other than Friday June 19, the day that he led the traditional Friday Prayer service and made his declaration that “enemies and dirty Zionists tried to show the election as a contest between the regime and against.” The bump for Kahmenei is the same bump for Ayatollah (Figure 14), despite there being many other Ayatollah’s than Kahmenei himself. The only time Twitter seems interested in either of them is on the Friday Prayer. This may be due to the sample size, but two Friday Prayer sessions occurred during the data we have access to, or due to the late start date (June 17) or early end date (June 27). It could also be a problem in something potentially more endemic with the tweets than the timing.

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Figure 13: References to Khamenei on the Iran2 database

Figure 14: References to Ayatollah on the Iran2 database

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The reason for so few references to people and so many references to concepts may lie in the data set itself. Figures 15 and 16 show the frequencies for both Mousavi and Ahmadinejad. These two individuals should have been the central figures for the bulk of the tweets, if the majority of the tweets were actually originating out of Iran. Instead, they’re minor figures. As a reminder, #mousavi was the eighth most popular term in the database for the final three days, but he netted only 334 total tweets.

Figure 15: References to Mousavi on the Iran2 database

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Figure 16: References to Ahmadinejad on the Iran2 database

This database, as insightful as it may be, is flawed due to the fact that it is solely in English. Were the Farsi tweets, which were more likely to have originated out of Iran, translated, there may have been a different order of things. There is little difference in the counts for either figure between the RT database (Twitter1) and the one with initial RT’s removed (Twitter2). It would appear, unfortunately, that Twitter was mainly being used by sympathetic Westerners interested sharing in the plight of those protesting. This is not to say that this was a bad thing; were it not for users spreading the photos, videos, and reports of those on the ground, many of the stories that emerged from the protests would have most likely never seen the light of day. But the irrational exuberance attributed to Twitter by the media as a democracy spreading technology may have been manufactured to fit a narrative. Figure 17 shows the references to Twitter in the dailies database from January 1, 2009 to the end of the Twitter2. Prior to the Iranian protests, the most significant days for Nagler 43

Twitter in 2009 were in mid-April, when a potential Twitter television show was being discussed. Twitter’s most dramatic spike in the news media comes on June 16, when it became clear that much of the information leaving Iran was through Twitter.

Figure 17: References to Twitter on the dalies database

This was also the same time that Twitter began protesting the cable news network CNN for failing to cover Iran by using the hashtag #cnnfail85. Protestors on Twitter noted that media outlets like the New York Times and BBC were dedicating far more space on their websites than CNN was, and once CNN relented and began covering the events in more depth, more networks followed. When more networks followed, more tweets were spread to ensure that the content the Internet wanted the networks to cover was seen and

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picked up. With this, the number of tweets rose, culminating in the Neda narrative becoming more important to those observing than either of the candidates themselves.

VII. Conclusion

Twitter served as a medium for protesters to spread their message. The ease with which people could share information made the tool a valuable one for organizing rallies, sharing the latest news, and alerting others to any potential danger. But Twitter was coopted by overly enthusiastic Western supporters who turned the service into an echo chamber. For every Iranian citizen tweeting about what embassy was surrounded by basij or where the next memorial for Neda was being held, there were dozens of outsiders resending those messages so those who weren’t directly involved. But Twitter had its major benefits. It allowed those on the ground to spread information that would have otherwise not made it out of the country, like the Neda video or images of those protesting. Had Twitter not been there, a young woman bleeding to death on a street corner would have been mourned by her friends and family, and for those around her, in time, life would have gone on. Instead, Twitter, along with YouTube, made sure that this death was witnessed by the world. Twitter made sure that the rest of the world knew that there were those in Iran who didn’t want their country to be defined by its President and his words. For a few weeks in June, American pundits stopped looking at Iran as if it were a bad guy and looked at it as if it were another country in the world stage who was worth talking to.

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For all the good it did, Twitter was limited by the fact that it could be easily compromised by the government simply turning off cell phone service and the Internet. Iran has the power over its telecommunications and could stop the flow of all incoming and outgoing Internet communication at any time if it wanted to. This shut down would harm all citizens, not just those protesting, which is why it was not utilized during the summer. Regardless of this fact, the Iranian government knew that it could not allow the protestors to regroup and claim a victory on a major holiday. They had been successful in keeping protests to fewer than 200,000 people on sanctioned governmental holidays like Quds Day, the day of solidarity with Palestine in September86, the 30th Anniversary of the siege of the American Embassy in November87, and Students Day in December88. Both sides saw the outcomes of these events as victories: the protestors claimed they reignited the feelings that had been brought to the surface in June. The government took the fact that each one of these protests only lasted a day as a sign that support was dwindling. Internet access had not been cut for these events – tweets, though less populous than in the summer, did make it out of the country. This would change in February for the 31st Anniversary of the 1979 Revolution. In preparation for February 11, the Iranian government slowed Internet connections down to a crawl. Many websites were blocked, including Google and all its affiliates, Yahoo, and Twitter89. Without any means of communication, protestors were only able to organize small, immediate groups of dissent. These groups were unable to
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http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/09/200991875246806121.html http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/nov/04/iran-protests-embassy-30th-anniversary 88 http://www.payvand.com/news/09/dec/1069.html 89 http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/12/world/middleeast/12iran.html Nagler 46

out chant the crowds of government supporters. The public squares they had flocked to over the summer were now patrolled by security guards whose job was to ensure that they did not gain any traction. Mousavi called for action, but no one was able to deliver. As of this time, it remains to be seen if there will be resurgence in the protests. On February 16, 2010, 5 days after the 31st Anniversary of the Islamic Republic, the unknown videographers of the Neda video was awarded a Polk Award for their capturing of her last moments. 40 seconds of grainy footage and thousands of tweets later, Neda’s death reminded people that though their countries may seek to oppress them, the Internet is still a zone of free speech where anyone’s opinion could wind up changing the course of history. Social media networking can modify the way campaigns are run and how information is spread. It can help get people elected, but it cannot overthrow a regime on its own. The overabundance of Western tweeters who were not physically in Iran and could therefore not serve to help in further protests were made apparent when the number of tweets subsided with the size of the protests. The echo chamber Twitter created ceased to echo once there was nothing to talk about. As a tool for those looking to organize any sort of post-election governmental upheaval, Twitter failed. It was not and is not suited for regime change. However, Twitter did serve as a tool to change the post-election environment of Iran. It was a useful device for the Mousavi campaign to use to connect with younger voters who spoke the language of the Internet. The actual effect of the candidates’ use of Twitter on the final poll numbers may, like the actual vote turnouts, never be known. It passed on information about protests and made the presence of the protestors known. For

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that alone, it was invaluable to Iran as it gave those in the country the courage to freely and openly criticize their government that they had not enjoyed before without fear of immediate reprisal. Regardless of how the protests resolve in the future, Twitter showed that it was a valid conduit of information in Iran. It showed that useful material could be transmitted in 140 characters or less and that there was more to the service than just the cultural pulse of the users. People took note of it as a valid medium, and on April 14, 2010, the Library of Congress announced its plan to house the entire archive of every publically tweeted tweet. To say that there is room for further examination is a gross understatement.

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VIII. Acknowledgements

I’d like to thank everyone who was involved in this project from its bizarre inception to its current form as this paper. What was originally supposed to be a study on cellphones and youth voter turnout morphed into a realization that cellphones and the Internet could be much more powerful tools when used to further the cause of a free society. I remember waking up at 6am every day during June and July to go read what Tweets had transpired over the course of our night/Iran’s day before going to work and being amazed at how this seemingly useless service was showing that it had such promise. Professor Norpoth allowed me to go along with this crazy idea, even though neither of us knew what we were doing. He pointed me in the right direction several times and was more patient with me than I was probably with myself. Through ReadMe, CrimsonHexagon, and finally TextMap, he somehow knew the right people to get into contact with. Karsten Januszewski probably doesn’t even remember me emailing him back in October, but without his xml files, there would be no paper. I owe him a greater debt of gratitude than I can properly express. Professor Skiena came like a bolt of clarity at a time when this paper was going nowhere fast thanks to my inability to code anything to save my life. He agreed to let me use TextMap at a time that I was slowly tearing my hair out trying to teach myself Python and R.

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Charles B. Ward: For lack of a better word, Charles is the man. He’s the one who took the tweets, put them in the pipeline, coded in the # and @ symbols, added my ridiculous requests for words (see Appendix 2) and answered all of my inane questions, often quicker than a post-doc student probably should have. There are others who played roles in this project. Tynan Fitzpatrick served as my undergraduate team member liaison to TextMap to deal with all the questions that were probably too stupid to ask anyone with a doctorate. Karen Kearnen decided that a weird political science topic deserved researcher of the month. David Mazza coded the xml into csv (after I paid him). Professor Cover felt it was a good idea to give me a thousand bucks to write with. Professor Boynton of the University of Iowa wisely informed me “As far as I can tell political scientists have not written about the use of micro blogging in political communication. So there is nothing to read that is directly relevant. We will be what others can read.” He was right. Justin Grimmer of Harvard attempted to teach me ReadMe, even though that didn’t go as planned. Pam Wolfskill helped me track down my missing cash, and laughed with me when it turned out the culprits who had accidentally absconded with it were my always helpful parents. Finally, there’s Neda. Neda, fittingly, means “voice” in Farsi. For a project on the power of new forms communication, it’s only right that the martyr of the cause be one whose name also means “divine message.”

In closing, ‫ﺩﯼﮎﺕﺍﺕﻭﺭ ﺏﺭ ﻡﺭﮒ‬

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Appendix 1 Figure 1: Karsten Januszewski’s visiual depiction of the top tweeters

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Appendix 2 List of terms requested to be added to TextMap’s recognition algorithm as places and things by author

Mousavi Ahmadinejad Ahmadi Karroubi Karoubi Rafsanjani Ayatollah Khamenei Khomeini Leadership Council Guardian Council gr88 Neda Neda Agha Soltan Green Freedom Square Tehran

Zahra Rahnavard Allah Ackbar Allahu Ackbar Rooftop Basij Baseej militia torture hospital thug Marg Bar Dictator motorcycle Hamas Obama Iraq Israel China

Beijing Russia Moscow UK England Britain London Nuclear Uranium Missile BBC Radio Hackers Government Vote

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Appendix 3 Figure 18: The Author at an Amnesty International Rally in Columbus Circle on June 29, 2009. Image copyright GettyImages, all rights reserved. Use without permission.

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References Bautin, M. C Ward, A. Patil, and S. Skiena. “Access: News and Blog Analysis for the Social Sciences.” To be presented at WWW2010, 19th International World Wide Web Conference. Raleigh, North Carolina, April 26-30, 2010. Benford, F. "The Law of Anomalous Numbers." Proc. Amer. Phil. Soc. 78, 551-572, 1938. Godbole, N, M. Srinivasaiah, and S. Skiena “Large-Scale Sentiment Analysis for News and Blogs” Int. Conf. on Weblogs and Social Media (ICWSM 2007), Denver CO, March 26-28, 2007. Kil, J, L. Lloyd, and S. Skiena, “Question Answering with Lydia.”14th Text Retrieval Conference (TREC 2005), NIST Gaithersburg MD, November 15-18, 2005 Lloyd, L. K Kechagias, and S. Skiena. "Lydia: A System for Large-Scale News Analysis (Extended Abstract)." String Processing and Information Retrieval, 12th International Conference, SPIRE 2005, Buenos Aires, Argentina, November 2-4, 2005. Eds. Mariano P. Consens, Gonzalo Navarro, 2005. 161-166 Mebane, Jr., Walter R. “Election Forensics: Vote Counts and Benford’s Law,” Presented at the 2006 Summer Meeting of the Political Methodology Society, UC- Davis, July 20–22. URL: http://www.umich.edu/~wmebane/pm06.pdf Mebane Jr., Walter R. “Note on the presidential election in Iran, June 2009.” 14 June 2009. 23 June 2009. http://election.princeton.edu/2009/06/18/flash-statistical-evidence-foriranian-election-fraud/

Mebane Jr., Walter R. "The Wrong Man is President! Overvotes in the 2000 Presidential Election in Florida." Perspectives on Politics. 2.3 (2004): 525-35. Mehler, A. Bao, X. Li, Y. Wang, and S. Skiena, “Spatial Analysis of News Sources.” IEEE Trans. Visualization and Computer Graphics 12 (2006) 765-772 Charles Ward, M. Bautin, and S. Skiena. “Identifying Differences in News Coverage Between Cultural/Ethnic Groups Ward.” News Analysis Workshop of IEEE/ACM Int. Conf. Web Intelligence and Intelligent Agent Technology (WI 2009), Milan Italy, September 15-18, 2009.

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