June 16th, 2009
01:17 PM ET
14 years ago

U.S. officials: Twitter, Facebook providing critical information on Iran situation

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/06/16/art.twitter0616.gi.jpg caption="U.S. officials say social networking sites are providing crucial information from inside Iran."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - U.S. 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 Iranian authorities banning western journalists from covering political rallies.

"There are lots of people here watching" at bureaus and offices across the State Department, one senior official said. "There are some interesting messages going up."

Because the United States 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 expatriate communities.

While officials would not say whether they were communicating with Iranians directly, one senior official noted that the United States 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.

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.

CNN is also extensively monitoring social networks as an integral part of its reporting on the situation in Iran.

The United States is staying hands-off of the election drama playing out in Iran, and officials say they are not sending 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.

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: Facebook • Twitter
soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. Pat

    Good to know the U.S. government is following us on social networking sites.

    June 16, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  2. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Social networls are the way of the future and it's good that the Iranians have this technology to voice their opinions.

    June 16, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  3. Neutralizer

    YUP! Tweeter beat MSM. CNN have FAILED big time on this.

    June 16, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  4. GI Joe

    Ain't technology wonderful?

    June 16, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  5. LacrosseMom

    This is great. The more information being sent out of Iran by its citizens, the more pressure is placed on the ayatollahs (sp?)

    YES YOU CAN IRAN! Keep fighting! Keep speaking up!



    June 16, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  6. nerakami

    CNN Stop posting the Iranian tweeters names – you are endagering their lives!!!!!

    June 16, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  7. Dawn in Pa

    with the blackout, this is the only way they can get things out, but be careful to the young Iranians....

    June 16, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  8. Limbaugh is a liberal

    That's because the mainstream media has abandoned all its repsonsibilitie sto get the facts for itself. It now just relies on facebook and bloggers to do their job for them!

    June 16, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  9. Esco

    Its obvious the Iranian President did cheat his way in already...otherwise why would they ban journaliststs? The question is whats going to be done about it?

    Its sad some of the people died for someone or something they believe in...and still cannot do anything to help them resolve this problem.

    June 16, 2009 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  10. Billy

    BBC has gone green in support of the people of Iran. I guess this means in 4 weeks CNN will finally find out and go green too.

    June 16, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  11. Rush Von Brunn

    The rightwing jihadists in Iran sound like republicans trying to block the real news from getting out to the people.

    June 16, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  12. Qui-Tam Relator

    American's have a lot more to worry about then the Iranian Elections. Facebook and CNN needs to focus on American Issues, all of this talk about Iran right now is to take the American focus off the most important problems being worked on in Congress and the Senate at this moment, Health Care, Unemployment, unbalanced Trade Agreements and Greed within our Corporations and our Government. Stop all this fluff news and start focusing on our own problems here in our own country! ********************************

    June 16, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  13. Nini

    Thanks to American technology, I wish I could say the same about the White House.

    Standing with the Iranian people and standing up for democracy shouldn’t have borders.

    Mr. Obama you failed in the past 72 hours to stand on the right side of the history.

    The youth of the Iran is sacrificing their lives for freedom and our administration is worried about its dealing with the mullah’s!!

    A sad day for the Leader of the Free World Mr. President.

    June 16, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  14. TCM

    Maybe OBama could arrange an "air drop," of Blackberries," to gain insight....that way he'd win their votes too...oops, my bad, he's our muslim; they're voting for their own muslim....

    Funny though, how Obama has to get his inexperienced nose into everything and everyone's business, like he knows what to do, and yet he won't touch this Iran thing with a ten foot pole....sounds awful fishy; especially since it concerns the most mistrusted president of our times, and his islam roots.

    June 16, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |