by Maximilian Forte, Open Anthropology, 20 June 2009
Source verification of digital information has risen to prominence with the Iranian election protests that have been ongoing since Saturday, 13 June, 2009. This does not just apply to alleged information distributed through social media, of course, as it also applies to mainstream media who, like the BBC, have been found to use doctored photos of protests showing a massive rally for Mir Hosein Mousavi that was actually a rally in support of the winning candidate, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In an attempt to convince rapid readers who do not make time to fact check, or cannot check facts, it has become a habit for some who use Twitter to precede their tweet with the word, “CONFIRMED,” without any indication of how the information was confirmed, when, and by whom. “Citizen journalism” and civil society politics are both going to get damaged unless we take away some lessons from this conflict.
“Citizen journalism” is dead. It has devolved into idolatry of highly paid propagandists of the ruling class and “cyberwarfare“:
6. Denial of Service attacks. If you don’t know what you are doing, stay out of this game. Only target those sites the legitimate Iranian bloggers are designating. Be aware that these attacks can have detrimental effects to the network the protesters are relying on. Keep monitoring their traffic to note when you should turn the taps on or off.
7. Do spread the (legitimate) word, it works! When the bloggers asked for twitter maintenance to be postponed using the #nomaintenance tag, it had the desired effect. As long as we spread good information, provide moral support to the protesters, and take our lead from the legitimate bloggers, we can make a constructive contribution.
I expect more retractions like this one due to “Twitter Fraud“:
NOTE FROM STEVE CLEMONS:
PLEASE NOTE THAT I HAVE RECEIVED INFORMATION DIRECTLY FROM THE BRITISH EMBASSY THAT THEY HAVE NOT TAKEN IN INJURED PROTESTERS. THERE IS SOME LEVEL OF MISINFORMATION FLOODING THROUGH TWITTER WITH REGARD TO THE EMBASSIES. I DO NOT HAVE INFORMATION ON ANY EMBASSIES EXCEPT THE UK — AND KNOW WHAT I PREVIOUSLY WROTE BELOW IS WRONG.
THERE MAY BE ACCIDENTAL REPORTING OUT THERE — OR MISLEADING “TWITTER FRAUD”.
But as a commenter to Forte’s article notes the lessons of #amazonfail have quickly been forgotten; once moral outrage has been unleashed, negativity retains an illegitimate validity long after catalysts are revealed as engineered falsehoods. The U.S. government and its affiliates are not only old hands at manufacturing disinformation but have demonstrated a formidable expertise in appropriating the communication tools of “citizen journalists” and using them to their advantage.