Tweet-Fighting Man

By ADAM REILLY  |  July 6, 2009

Two more points. First, Twitter has played a vital newsgathering role in Iran because a crisis developed and traditional journalists had trouble operating. Its newsgathering utility in less dramatic situations, however, where the citizenry has less incentive to report and professional reporters have more room to maneuver, remains relatively unproven.

Finally, even if Twitter's role in the Iranian protest movement proves to have been as robust as some contend, that won't mean that, as a technology, it's possessed of some sort of inherent, neo-Hegelian, collective-consciousness-manifesting benevolence. Just think, for example, how queasily handy Twitter would have been when the Hutus whipped up paranoid resentment of the Tutsis prior to the Rwandan genocide — or how similarly useful it could be for tech-savvy anti-Semites looking to organize a pogrom. It would be nice if the question of how nefariously Twitter could be used remained abstract, but it probably won't. Technology marches on. Human nature doesn't.

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