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. theunderground

    Yes, because the CIA has to instruct the 'opposition' on where to strike next.

    June 16, 2009 at 3:02 pm |
  2. Tina

    Agree with the above comment. Please, please keep their names anonymous. The government will find them and it will end their fight for freedom.

    June 16, 2009 at 3:01 pm |
  3. Catherine Love

    Cooper, remove this item. It is being used on Tweeter to show Western influence of events in Iran. Use your head.

    June 16, 2009 at 2:50 pm |
  4. Shahpour Parsa

    Thank you so much State Department! Best thing for Americans to do (besides pray for the freedom seekers in Iran) now is ensure that there is some sort of communication inside Iran (as the regime has clamped down on other forms of communication), and support the democratic process.

    Other than that, please do not make any inflammatory comments or take sides in the matter, this will only play in the hands of the regime in Iran. The governemnt in Iran will try to delegitmize these grievances and protests, and lie and say they are rooted in foreign interests and intervention. Which is nonsense.

    God Bless the People of Iran and the United States of America!

    June 16, 2009 at 2:49 pm |
  5. Mike in NYC

    I'm skeptical of any "movement" composed largely of students.

    Regardless of the country in question, they're unlikely to be representative of the population as a whole.

    June 16, 2009 at 2:47 pm |
  6. Patricia Diaz

    I am so worried about the Iranian situation because of the consequences it may have for the world if power gets into the wrong hands. Please protect Iranian twitters identities. They are the real heroes and kudos to the U.S. State Dept. for finally being strategically savvy in their handling of the Iranian political standoff.

    June 16, 2009 at 2:46 pm |
  7. TexGent

    People have been begging CNN to immediately quit reporting with usernames from Twitter. As reported in this piece, individuals are being arrested and questioned due to exposure – intentional or otherwise.

    There was someone above in a comment who posted a twitter name in their post. Moderator, please remove immediately and insure that their safety is protected b not being stupid about what is said.

    As many have said the Iranian govt is watching twitter and the news sites and are shutting down those whose names are being broadcast and disseminated out there.

    Users have been asked to remove the tweeter's username from ReTweets to protect their identity.

    June 16, 2009 at 2:42 pm |
  8. Jo Ann, North Royalton, Ohio

    Didn't Anderson just have a good laugh over Charles Barkley calling the "tweeters" losers a couple of weeks ago?

    Well, all of those "losers" tweeting from Iran are some of the only people getting the information out of the country.

    Good luck to those brave souls!

    June 16, 2009 at 2:41 pm |
  9. skylights

    First ensure that Twitter stays up
    Then give Letterman a huge raise

    June 16, 2009 at 2:25 pm |
  10. KatchProFILMS

    Cool. (So cool.)

    June 16, 2009 at 2:23 pm |
  11. Log

    Iranian people are eager for freedom and want to get rid of the brutal Clerics, USA is not helping enough, Hussein Obama is coward.

    June 16, 2009 at 2:23 pm |
  12. KJ

    Mr. Cooper,

    I appreciated your commentary late last night on the situation in Iran, however, I must echo the concerns of Ben. Last night, you showed a Twitter page of a now-known Iranian Tweeter. However, I do believe that showing that name is just further proof of Americans' ignorance to other countries and how they operate.

    Iranians are not safe. We've seen the footage, the pictures, and many Tweeters, such as myself, are constantly refreshing their Twitter pages to hopefully hear from our Iranian brothers and sisters and pray that they are ok. Posting their names publicly puts them in danger. There are quite a few Iranian Tweeters who have disappeared after their names went public.

    What you can do is to censor those names. Iran is not free like the United States is free. Freedom of speech and freedom of the press aren't a concept the Iranian government seems to hold in high regards. But we have to keep in mind that there are real people down there right now, reporting to us when our journalists can't due to the ban of foreign media. We should not be responsible for putting their lives in jeopardy. They are putting their own lives in jeopardy simply recounting their experiences to the outside world. Let's not make it worse for them.

    June 16, 2009 at 2:17 pm |
  13. TK

    Let's hope they don't hire the same consultants that communist China uses to advise them on how to block everything, or lets hope they don't ask companies in America to censure these tools because some alleged American companies will be more than happy to oblige for the right price. China was able to get Google to censure for it's communist government cutting off information for the Chinese people.

    June 16, 2009 at 2:17 pm |
  14. Kathryn, Atlanta GA

    Where else can you get CNN, Fox, NPR and real people providing real-time updates? Twitter! Even if you don't like it or don't get the craze, for something as meaningful and substantial as what's going on in Iran right now, the social sites are the way to keep up and ahead. The tweets from inside Iran are amazing.

    June 16, 2009 at 2:16 pm |
  15. Nefira Mada

    Finally the US Governemtn makes the right move, There is hope after all. For the first time in a long time, I'm actually impressed. Good to see some good ideas coming from the executive sector.
    *thumbs up.*

    June 16, 2009 at 2:15 pm |
  16. Aryana

    Oh great. thanks so much.

    June 16, 2009 at 2:14 pm |
  17. mitrebox

    CNN can be completely oblivious sometimes: I remember this one time 25,000 protested in downtown Atlanta, 2 blocks away from CNN. Not one camera and all 'Mole-Boy' could do was make tea bagging jokes.

    I remember when CNN did the news and the internet did the phallic comedy. I guess I'm getting old.

    June 16, 2009 at 2:13 pm |
  18. Mari

    @ Susan B.......... Well said!

    June 16, 2009 at 2:13 pm |
  19. Mari

    Love that the people of Iran have technology to keep the rest of the world informed!

    Information is power!

    Keep fighting for your freedom, Iran!! YES YOU CAN!

    June 16, 2009 at 2:12 pm |
  20. Mariam

    Enough Iran! Two or three minutes at the top of the show, then move on please. There's other news out there and I'd like to know what it is.
    If you're trying to show that muslims resort to violence when they lose an election to someone who is all about violence, we get it.
    Violence and Islam. Violence violence violence. What else is new? Well, it's your job to tell us...

    June 16, 2009 at 2:12 pm |
  21. Sarah

    For those of you complaining about the lack of coverage, it's because Iranian officials have banned all foreign media coverage.

    June 16, 2009 at 2:10 pm |
  22. Martina Ilstad Germany

    Twitter has to take care Iranian twitter,dont show their names.They live in lawlost area,but they are the only, who can tell the rest of the world,whats going on in Iran.I pray for this tuff people.

    June 16, 2009 at 2:08 pm |
  23. Angela

    Keep it going, AC!

    June 16, 2009 at 1:54 pm |
  24. enoriverbend

    @Susan B: I second the compliment to the few CNN personnel that are on the ball. Don't know what's happened to CNN in general. NY Times is doing a better-than-most job as well.

    As for the names of twitterers: The guys with ImaDinnerJacket are known to be monitoring. Any twitter contributor in Iran should already be using nontraceable nom de plume. Several of the most reliable and important twitter accounts were just created this week, presumably by bright people who thought of this possibility ahead of time.

    June 16, 2009 at 1:49 pm |
  25. Annika

    Stop posting Iranian twitter names!!!
    Please take down or at least censor that comment made by Leonore Hollowell. Thank you.

    June 16, 2009 at 1:48 pm |
  26. Jeanne Byrd

    Thank You!

    June 16, 2009 at 1:40 pm |
  27. James

    Twitter has been more useful in this entire ordeal for iranians like me than any of you spineless scum in the main stream media. shame on you for not reporting the real news and showing how my people are dying for their freedom while you spinless hacks talk about nothing

    June 16, 2009 at 1:38 pm |
  28. nilou

    Please see youtube letter to the world. it is done by an artist out of iran on exile. please show it on your show. we need help from U.S.

    June 16, 2009 at 1:30 pm |

    I should think the "American Agent" charge would at this point ring false...
    After all, this is not necessarily a march for anything more than confronting a despotic regime that has-according to documents- issued a fatwah commanding that the election skew to the incumbent. That is an injustice wherever it may occur.

    June 16, 2009 at 1:30 pm |
  30. Lenore Hollowell

    I have been following @persiankiwi to get news from Iran. It has been fascinating to read his tweets as well as a powerful reminder of how important freedom and the right to choose is for people around the world.

    June 16, 2009 at 1:27 pm |
  31. Ben

    Please stop posting names of Iranian twitterers on TV. I realize some of the big name ones are already known, but if we could keep some voices as anonymous as possible, it would be nice. take care of it, AC 😉

    June 16, 2009 at 1:25 pm |
  32. Susan B

    And Anderson, you, Amanpour and Fareed are the only people who are reliable when it comes to news coming from Iran on CNN. Keep it coming, I have lost all hope for other news outlets.

    June 16, 2009 at 1:23 pm |
  33. Susan B

    Wow, firing a late night talk host is more important than receiving information from a country deep in a political revolution, in need of help.

    Is it really more important? Really now? People in America need to get out of this prolonged apathy and indifference. It's sickening.

    June 16, 2009 at 1:22 pm |
  34. Karen Chapman

    The people of the USA love the people of Iran. We would like to have an open diagloge with these wonderful people who want a free country. So many in America are standing in solidarity with the Iranian people who want change and feel there votes were not counted.

    June 16, 2009 at 1:19 pm |
  35. carr2d2

    i should know better than to dignify the above comment with a response, but seriously? people in iran are fighting for their freedom and all you can do is dwell on a stupid joke? get over yourself.

    June 16, 2009 at 1:19 pm |
  36. lakelady

    the State department changed the downtime? Really? Or was it all the tweeters that contacted NTT American (Twitter's provider) that convinced them to do maintenance at 1:30am Tehran time. Maybe a bit of both.

    June 16, 2009 at 1:18 pm |
  37. Tom Ramsay

    It's fine the US is observing, but do not get involved. If you believe in global democracy, consider this: the USA has about 5% of the earth's population; democracy is about the will of the majority–5% does not a majority make! Obama's foriegn policy, I believe is greatly superior to the laughable Bush admin.'s but I also think theat Statecraft is something the USA needs to learn if it wishes to be a world leader again. Good Luck Pres. Obama, we need your compassion. Tom

    June 16, 2009 at 1:17 pm |
  38. Monique

    This isn't about that stupid joke...or the whining...this is REAL!

    June 16, 2009 at 1:08 pm |
  39. Michelle

    PLease help the Iraninans. These poor souls are the descendents of the Persian civilization, which established the first declaration of human rights some 2500 years ago.

    We are getting emails and calls from Iran asking UN or US or Europe to intervene and help. The young are educated and believe that international intervention is necessary. The protester do not have guns, the new pictures coming out are showing the security police nad the undercovers carrying and using their guns.

    If president Obama does not want to get involved, why doesn't UN send and envoy?? This is a human rights issue.
    All these protestors are openminded religious people. "God is great" is their Slogan . Where are the world religious leaders? Why don't the world religious leaders get involved? Where is the vatican ? Where is the Pope?

    The government of Iran has been treating the religious minorities, the women, and the intellectuals in this manner for many years. Now they are committing the same injustices towards the ordinary citizens too.
    They are all crying for help.
    Pleeease help them.
    These are very sad days for the human race.

    June 16, 2009 at 1:07 pm |
  40. Iran_Twitter

    Real smart State Dept. You just signed a death warrant for Iranian bloggers. For all of the Iranians who, every time they protest, have to hear "American Agent", you just made it that much easier.

    June 16, 2009 at 1:05 pm |
  41. Shaun


    People are dying in the streets for freedom. A late night talk show host made a joke.

    Glad you have your priorities straight.

    June 16, 2009 at 1:05 pm |
  42. JMM

    Nationwide Legalization? Perhaps not anytime soon. Now I am all for it but, Obama already has his legacy as being the first African American President .He is smart as hell, and well spoken. Aside from your political views, how can you not like the guy? Do you think he wants to add to his resume “the legalization of Marijuana”? Our Politicians are running a business. The debate here is not weather Marijuana is safe or not, it’s the bottom line $$$$ . Don’t you think our lawmakers know how many people a year die from addictions and overdoses to prescription medications, tobacco, and alcohol? Of course they do. The problem is that Marijuana industry does not have the budget to offer politicians a trip to Europe in a G5,renovate their house on Nantucket, or get their unusually weird looking kid a role on “One life to live”.
    Lets press the issue on Taxation. It is now time for activists to become salespeople and show our government how they can get theirs. This is one of the best business decisions they could make. Do we want this profit to go to Guerilla Ops funded by Mexican Cartels? They certainly are not impacted by our recession. In fact they are thriving. Its not going away ,the demand is here! We will continue to get it where we can , everywhere but Uncle Sam This is our biggest cash crop and we don’t have our hands in the cookie jar. This stuff is grown here, packaged here , and sold here. However we are not running the show. Yea guys,….go ahead, just give them more reason to come running across the border illegally. What a joke

    June 16, 2009 at 1:04 pm |
  43. Darren Kopp

    @Gilby – Don't hijack

    This is a good move by the state department in my opinion.

    June 16, 2009 at 1:02 pm |
  44. Angela

    Twitter went from social experiment to an inestimable dynamic tool. The world is changing- people are changing with it... amazing what social media is capable of- it shows just how much Americans CARE about the world. Twitter lets us get involved, let's us help.

    June 16, 2009 at 1:02 pm |
  45. Cindy

    In all honesty Twitter has more news on Iran than the news media here does! That is a shame!! I looked all over CNN all weekend and never heard a word about it until Sunday morning after Twitter and others on the net had called CNN out about it.

    I hope the people in Iran can keep on telling us what is going on. I'd hate for them to get shut off and then the protests to turn violent when the Iranian government attacks them for trying to speak out.


    June 16, 2009 at 1:02 pm |
  46. Josh

    Please don't cloud this important subject with David Letterman comments. I'm sure he's offended hundreds of people in his career, it's basically his job – don't cry about it now.

    Twitter has been snowballing into a force to be reckoned with but access to it by Iranians is quickly being pinched. Twitter can postpone it's maintenance all it wants but on-the-ground tweeters are struggling to stay connected. Iran is working to block just about everything – including webmail and other mediums of communication.

    June 16, 2009 at 1:01 pm |
  47. Angela

    This is going on in the world and all you care about is David Letterman?

    That's sad. You are a sad example of a human being.

    June 16, 2009 at 1:00 pm |
  48. Rafael Nadal

    Get rid of the criminal Mullahs ; Mullahs only care about money and power not the Iranian people. I'd like to see a new revolution to toppled them and execute them just like they did to the Sha's regime 30 years ago

    June 16, 2009 at 12:59 pm |
  49. Brian

    Are you serious?

    @gilby-Hi ....stfu. No one cares about David Letterman. He made a bad joke, get over it, he's not going to be fired.

    June 16, 2009 at 12:53 pm |
  50. Gilby-HI

    First – Fire David Letterman
    then tweet all you like

    June 16, 2009 at 12:47 pm |
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