Posted by Craig Kanalley | Posted in News | Posted on 22-06-2009
If you pull up the latest #IranElection tweets and sift through a couple pages, you’re sure to find them.
Retweets from Iran. Sometimes they say “RT from Iran,” others “RT Iran,” and others just “RT” with Iran elsewhere in the message. Unlike normal retweets, they don’t include the name of the original Twitterer for their protection and safety.
That begs the question – Are they reliable?
Because retweets can be manually composed (not part of the Twitter interface), the quick answer is no, they’re not. Anybody can start a RT from Iran, as long as they have followers, and in effect start a rumor.
Some accounts are even fabricating tweets completely and giving them credit to others, preceded by retweet, another way to spread misinformation. Jim Sciutto of ABC has been among the victims of this tactic.
All the RTs have created somewhat of a mess. It’s up to you to figure out what’s reliable and what’s not, and you should treat every RT as nothing more than a “tip,” unconfirmed until proven otherwise.
A somewhat worrisome trend, Simon Owens of Bloggasm found that the average tweet from Iran is retweeted 58 times. Even if the tweet really is from Iran, is the person reliable? It begs many questions.
These 58, sometimes as many as 100 or more, retweets go out into the Twitterverse, some retweeted by prominent users with thousands of followers, adding to the confusion.
Another problem is that many Twitter users not in Iran have changed their profile location to Iran to confuse Iranian censors. This trend came about, ironically, because of a massive retweet campaign, and now some of them are being RT’ed as “from Iran.”
It’s obvious people want information from Iran, and they want it in real-time. So it doesn’t take much for a person to hit “RT” and to rebroadcast information they feel may be a “scoop.” But where’s the gatekeeper?
The gatekeeper is the retweeter, who takes a look at the tweet and within seconds decides its value. Anyone who eyes a retweet must keep this in mind, and treat every tweet with caution until confirmed.
“Re-tweeting is a kind of reporting,” Tech President
“High number of retweets of Iran News,” Beet.TV
“Twitter eludes censorship attempts in Iran,” Breaking Tweets
“Social media shining in Iranian conflcit,” VatorNews
“A look at Twitter in Iran,” Sysomos Blog
“Iran’s struggle for free expression on Twitter,” NPR