June 16th, 2009
09:17 PM ET

State Department to Twitter: Keep Iranian tweets coming

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/TECH/03/31/twitter.fail.whale/art.twitter.message.gi.jpg]

Elise Labott
CNN State Department Producer

The halls of Foggy Bottom are ringing with the Tweets coming with Iran and the State Department is working to ensure they keep coming.

Senior officials say the State Department is working with Twitter and other social networking sites to ensure Iranians are able to continue to communicate to each other and the outside world.

By necessity, the US is staying hands off of the election drama playing out in Iran, and officials say they are not providing messages to Iranians or "quarterbacking" the disputed election process.

But they do want to make sure the technology is able to play its sorely-needed role in the crisis, which is why the State Department is advising social networking sites to make sure their networks stay up and running for Iranians to use them and helping them stay ahead of anyone who would try to shut them down.

For example, senior officials say the State Department asked Twitter to refrain for going down for periodic scheduled maintenance at this critical time to ensure the site continues to operate. Bureau's and offices across the State Department, they say, are paying very close attention to Twitter and other sites to get information on the situation in Iran.

Because the US has no relations with Iran and does not have an embassy there, it is relying on media reports and the State Department's Iran Watch Offices in embassies around the world. The largest such offices are in Dubai, Berlin and London, all home to large Iranian expat communities.

But officials say the internet, and specifically social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, are providing the United States with critical information in the face of a crackdown on journalists by Iranian authorities.

"There are lots of people here watching," one senior official said. "There are some interesting messages going up."

While officials would not say whether they were communicating with Iranians directly, one senior official noted that the US is learning about certain people being picked up for questioning by authorities through posts on Twitter.

"It is a very good example of where technology is helping," the official said.

The situation in Iran is a real world example of the State Department's efforts to increase use of technology in diplomacy, including social networking sites, Web Video and text messages to reach large numbers of people who would otherwise be difficult to reach.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Elise Labott • Technology
soundoff (82 Responses)
  1. David

    Iran is begging for attention.Iran obviously doesn't have its people under a bridge:they allowed discored.Iran reps say they still want resolution for the Palistines being displaced.It seems to make sense because they could bring up other reasons for being so missunderstood.Ihope its not an excuse being used by them.But seems to be an unlikely cry for help .

    June 17, 2009 at 7:49 am |
  2. J.V.Hodgson

    The reporting on this basically so far so good,but lacking for all sorts of reasons including censorship In Iran and apparently by its government, leads me to comment.
    I would in a way like a return to the old times when often we did not have this huge coverage of another sovreign states actions or elections, and did not know.
    On the other hand we now do know ( and the media seem to disrespect thier underlying obligations to be fair, balanced, legal, honest, decent and truthful.)
    This obligation due to technology has increased geometrically and doing your responsibility therefore more than geometrically. Life is tough.
    I think it is great that we are better informed.
    What I do not like is individual governments ( sovreign states) espousing their sovreign interests thru what they say to the media or otherwise.
    These should be taken up internationally via the UN not by individual nations ( the UN constitution needs revising and vetoes removed) and neither the EU or America or China or Russia, should dictate policy on what to do about Iranian elections, only decide whether the system ( with monitoring) is appropriate for each nation.
    That by the way is why Iraq has been the huge issue it is as the US wanted final say how that sovreign state should in future be run.

    June 17, 2009 at 3:41 am |
  3. bobby miller

    jimy carter again.wow , he was president in 1979 this happen in iran .again he is in mideleast.you know what i mean.where is your bliding hart for iranian peopel .yes i am talking to you amercan people .they are geting kild and you are talking gays and fags in this country

    June 17, 2009 at 2:29 am |
  4. KimberlyChristine

    The whole world has gone nuts....

    June 17, 2009 at 2:28 am |
  5. Peter

    Take Lenore Hollowell's entry off your site!!!!!! (18 up)

    She just endangered the people who use that address and all the followers. You could get them all killed.

    Don't post

    June 17, 2009 at 2:09 am |
  6. mertz

    yupp. we've been getting really good coverage from local iranians with contacts in iran from cbc and bbc. was surprised to hear about people venting on cnn's lack of coverege on the dissention from the grassroots public in iran (especially as people in the cities and the villages are all holding public rallies), until i saw it on tv and then some online articles (i.e. slate) bashing cnn's coverage. considering i watch cnn 24/7 i didn't see the big deal, lol, probably because unlike i guess people in the u.s. i can switch to cbc, citytv, bbc...and any number of news station on tv or radio and get good reporting. this whole event has been in the making, and i am glad that iranians are rising up to challenge their complex idea of democracy especially as they are inbetween post-theocracy/revolution to becoming psuedo democratic/democratic in many aspects of their society with unions and representational factions among themselved. i don't think this is about the three opposition leaders at all...am glad moussavi cleared that up. i think they legitamately have a righ to be angry. i also hope the reporters are keeping safe. i know the government issued out more passes than usual and we have a lot of local reporters from here over there. they're in the business and know protocol but i can't help but be scared for them in this situation. good on all these guys getting proactive about their politics. i wonder if they are going to do the double deal on khomeini.

    June 17, 2009 at 1:21 am |
  7. Salma

    This is the response that I received from my cousin in Iran about what is going on there right now. These are his words directly from Iran about the current situation. I will continue to post whatever he sends me. If you know of a better place where I can post these up-dates please reply to my message with your suggestions. Thank you!

    "well of course it's like hell here. all tension, all stress, all anticipation 4 what's to come next. they have told us a big lie and we're fighting for it. all young people are chanting slogans every single day, demonstrating; peacefully of course. the thing is they've made everything as tight as possible. the media's almost blocked. the sms service is off and the telephone's are even one and off. they are trying to suffocate the whole thing internationally, even domestically. but we are trying our best not to let them. since the communication system is rather limited, false notifications run around, one day they announce a false demonstration/rally place and everyone's surprised. it's not good. not good at all.

    of course despite all this our daily lives are going on. but we're not gonna let them off easy for sure! if you guys can just spread the word as much as possible about the truth! they are beating up and trying to scare the hell out of us. they are killing MANY everyday without anyone even noticing it. of course PEOPLE ARE LIVING EVERY MOVE and are not gonna let gpo easy.

    as for us, we're all fine and are trying not to get deep into trouble. maybe now it's the wise thing to do. but god knows if it's still the same in the following week.

    Bob is okay. he's out everyday of course but don't worry he's too TARSOO to be caught or anything. vali we are trying and trying.

    as a matter of fact, 2nite all the uncle's are gathering here along with Mo. he's a bit worried but I'm sure we can chill him a bit at least 🙂

    anyhow...I'll keep U updated azizam.
    say hi to everyone and let all the Iranian's out there know what's goin on. we can sure as hell use their support!


    June 17, 2009 at 1:20 am |
  8. Omid

    I would like to thank these social networks and the State Department for their support of our movement. I wish they could do something to help us fight the growing internet censorship and bypass the filters to be able to access the news.

    June 16, 2009 at 11:59 pm |
  9. Quietstorm

    They don't get it..its not just people in Iran speaking..All of America is speaking out too...every second..every minute..We hear you Iran..I was told that Youtube was taking down videos of photos and so on from Iran...they are trying to take the evidence down about whats happening over there and its wrong..Let them speak...don't shut them out

    June 16, 2009 at 8:22 pm |
  10. Quietstorm

    I read something on this site that said that the Iranian-Americans are logging on and taking to the streets to protest..Many of us that are on Twitter from the US are from all races..I'm not Iranian..I am black and I was one of them to change the twitter display to green and one of the many Americans that care and are staying updated with all that is happening..Its true I've seen more on Twitter than CNN....We all of many races..and religions..are behind the people of Iran..the election was unjust..and something needs to change here..How long are they going to let people get killed and beat..just because they are trying to have a voice..This is going too far....These people matter and they should be respected..

    June 16, 2009 at 8:19 pm |
  11. Caren

    I'm 31 years old IRANIAN living in L.A.
    Do you really believe that what is happening in IRAN now is for real, look this is exactly government plan, now they will recount the votes or they will do the election all over again at the end Mir Hussein will be president and the will give the word finger,” did you see that our country have a democracy and people deiced for the government”, but after 6 month you will find out who is real “Mir Hussein “

    please hide my identity for safety
    Thank you

    June 16, 2009 at 8:01 pm |
  12. Tina

    Remember the top news a few days ago, gas prices, David Letterman. Oh remember the banks and Gmc. Remember all that.

    June 16, 2009 at 7:59 pm |
  13. maryam

    There are Arab speaking gards who are in front of protestors, after talking to my reletives in Iran.

    June 16, 2009 at 7:24 pm |
  14. Tim Gibson

    While it is true, freedom in a battle fought by those seeking it, let us stay out of it. With the state department working to ensure the tweets keep tweeting is that not an issue Iran can now say the US was involved in the violence.

    We have our own issues of major concern and the butter pat is mortaged to China and back, so work on issues that address Americans and let the other nations resolve their own political uprising.

    June 16, 2009 at 7:09 pm |
  15. Mehdi

    Thank you , Dave. And one more thing for CNN, please do not announce Twitter's names because, again, the reasons should be even more obvious – you're risking their lives.

    June 16, 2009 at 6:52 pm |
  16. Jason

    Keep the pressure on Iran!

    June 16, 2009 at 6:31 pm |
  17. DrDiesel

    And Twitter is down....

    June 16, 2009 at 5:28 pm |
  18. jams O'Donnell

    This is good news and probably the best thing that the US government can do to help Iranians at the moment

    June 16, 2009 at 5:14 pm |
  19. Larry

    Venezuela will give Iran all the aid it needs.

    June 16, 2009 at 5:09 pm |
  20. Kaelinda

    The US and all the rest of the world should watch without interfering. If the people of Iran want a revolution, let them have it. If they don't want a revolution, let them not have it. Madeleine Albright, who was once Secretary of State under Bill Clinton, once said, "In 1953 the United States played a significant role in orchestrating the overthrow of Iran's popular Prime Minister, Mohammed Massadegh. The Eisenhower Administration believed its actions were justified for strategic reasons; but the coup was clearly a setback for Iran's political development. And it is easy to see now why many Iranians continue to resent this intervention by America in their internal affairs." Let's not do this again – keep America and the rest of the world out of Iranian politics. Just let Iranians solve their own problems. We don't need another "alliance of the willing" to start another war in the middle east.

    June 16, 2009 at 5:00 pm |
  21. bernhard

    if you had better sources for this it wouldn't be only posted in a blog right?

    June 16, 2009 at 4:21 pm |
  22. Dave

    It's actually a terrible move by State. Twitter users were the ones that pushed the original maintenance schedule back to help the Iranians, there's no need for the State Department to pipe up and say anything. The White House, The State Department, and especially the CIA should stay away. The reasons should be obvious.

    June 16, 2009 at 4:20 pm |
  23. Seantay

    There are so many young people in this country supporting the young people of Iran. We are watching and we won't let you be forgotten. Everyone's got green on. Keep fighting for your rights! America loves you and supports you!

    June 16, 2009 at 4:12 pm |
  24. Samuel Parent

    It's refreshing that technology and online behavior are being recognized for something good for once. Thanks Anderson

    June 16, 2009 at 4:07 pm |
  25. ayo

    Can we have CNN do a poll among the NEO NAZI supporters to see what political they belong to. I heard some repu

    June 16, 2009 at 3:59 pm |
  26. Robin in Tampa, FL

    @Cindy – Couldn't have said it better myself ... especially now with the crackdown of traditional media, the net is now quickly becoming the only source of real-time news coming from Iran.

    June 16, 2009 at 3:27 pm |
  27. Paladine

    Please stop naming Iranian nics on air...

    June 16, 2009 at 3:11 pm |
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