Twitter for the Peace Prize!

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

That’s right: someone has publicly put Twitter forward as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize, citing the impact of its supposed assistance to the protest movement in Iran against the results of the 12 June national elections. That someone is Mark Pfeifle, formerly Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor to George W. Bush, and he does so in an opinion-piece in the Christian Science Monitor (in English, of course). Although I have dealt with questions of Twitter here recently, I was unaware of this editorial until I was informed of it today by this German website intern.de. (And how did I find out about intern.de? Hey, you’ve got to let me have a few professional secrets!)

Naturally, I leave it to you, dear reader, to examine Pfeifle’s article itself as you may wish. Intern.de, though, has some reservations about it, like Pfeifle’s assertion that Twitter was mainly responsible for the emergence of the story of the assassination of Neda (Neda Agha-Soltan), who basically became the lead-martyr for the Iranian opposition’s cause. I also rather believe that it was YouTube, if anything, that figured most largely in spreading the news and horror of her killing. Pfeifle also conveniently ignores the very substantial defects to Twitter that emerged during those days of Tehran street-demonstrations, such as the sheer volume of “tweets” to be digested (221,000 per hour at their height, it says here) and the related problem of a high “noise-to-signal ratio” (i.e. it was difficult to glean out useful information – much less anything that could be verified – from that flood), as the audience for the “#iranelection” hash-tag eventually was even treated to tweet-advertising piggybacking on that tag from a UK furniture company! The intern.de blogger also detects a high level of sheer PR content in Pfeifle’s piece, whether it’s trying to spin for Twitter or for Mark Pfeifle himself. I agree, but again, you can go off to the Christian Science Monitor site and judge for yourself.

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