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By Penny Crossland

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Recent events in Iran will surely have convinced those last remaining Twitter detractors of its value in news dissemination. With parts of the Iranian mobile network disabled and television state-controlled, the internet became the medium used for organizing opposition to the aftermath of the election. Twitter, in particular, was used by the (mainly) young protestors to communicate with each other and the outside world. As the Times pointed out last week (http://digbig.com/4yyfy), Twitter is easy to use, but hard to censor, since there is no time delay when sending messages. Also, users can remain anonymous if they want to. All this raises the question as to whether social media will take over from traditional media in news dissemination and whether we, as information professionals should view these sites as legitimate news sources when searching for information. At the recent 140 Characters Conference in New York (http://digbig.com/4yyfp), contributors were lamenting the lack of real-time coverage on the Iranian protests via news networks and discussed whether Twitter is evolving into the ‘citizen’s CNN’ of the new media generation. Representatives from the traditional media acknowledged that they could not keep pace with the speed of information disseminated via Twitter, however they made a crucial point: News via social media is essentially conversation, whereas news via television or print involves fact checking and analysis. Whereas info pros like to provide the most current information to their customers, it is of little value without context and further research. Participants at the New York conference however, did agree that social or ‘citizen’ media will force journalists to change how they gather and disseminate news and will influence what stories are covered in the first place. As academic and columnist Paul Saffo recently said: ‘News doesn’t break, it tweets’. (http://www.saffo.com) Meanwhile, events in Iran prompted Google to announce last week that is was adding Farsi to its Google Translate function (http://digbig.com/4yyga), while Facebook announced a Persion version of its site (http://digbig.com/4yygb). It would seem that Twitter is not just a powerful political tool, but also a driver for evolving online and social media content.

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