Iranian students are spammers from Israel?! Er, no.

You can make a conspiracy theory out of anything, but this article is ridiculous.

The writer claims that @change_for_Iran, @persiankiwi,  @stopahmadi and others are fake accounts created in Israel. The six points he uses to back up the claim are pathetic.  

1.  They each created their twitter accounts on Saturday June 13th.

That would be the day when it became clear that the election had turned out badly...  and that a new anonymous Twitter account would be necessary. (Tweeting from a named account would be incredibly dangerous. A few courageous and/or foolish souls continued to do this.)

2.  Each had extremely high number of Tweets since creating their profiles.
Well, duh. The whole point of creating these accounts was to alert the rest of the world, and each other, what was going on. 

3. “IranElection” was each of their most popular keyword
 Hello?! That was the subject of their tweets. IranElection was the number 1 trend on Twitter generally. 

4.  With some very small exceptions, each were posting in 
If the goal is to raise awareness of their situation in the rest of the world, what language would you use?

5.  Half of them had the exact same profile photo
For the first few hours  these accounts were just using the default Twitter icon.   Then some began adopting the same green icon as a sign of unity. Copy, paste, click.  How hard is that?

6.  Each had thousands of followers, with only a few friends. Most of their friends were 

The writer is clearly clueless about Twitter. Why would they follow anyone other than other Iranian twitterers, any of whom would be easy to find with the 'IranElection' hashtag?

He makes great play of the fact that the Jerusalem Post was the first to report their existence. But its report was posted many hours after thousands of Twitterers had already discovered them online. How were they found? Because they hash-tagged their tweets #Iranelection.  Anyone following that tag immediately saw that they were worth following.

I was only Change_for_Iran's 1100th follower, but was still well ahead of that Post story.  The power and significance of what Change_for_Iran was writing was obvious, and it certainly reads as if it were genuine: the tweets included doubts, typos, retractions and the occasional flailing out, as well as heart-stopping descriptions of real-time events such as a tear-gas attack.   But to make doubly sure I contacted Twitter's CEO Evan William (@ev) and he confirmed to me that @change_for_Iran appeared to be tweeting from inside Iran.  

I think history will show that the use of Twitter and other tools by these students has taken social media to a new level of significance by engaging millions of people around the world in a personal way in an issue they otherwise wouldn't look twice at.  Whether or not you agree with their protests, they at least deserve respect for incredible courage and ingenuity.

32 responses
I understand you wanted to blog about this and say your piece, but for now tweeting/blogging their ID's puts them in immediate danger. Government officials are monitoring twitter and the ID's of opposition supporters. Please wait to post this. Please.
great post chris! It is amazing how twitter is being used (by Iranians). mousavi's twitter feed (@mousavi1388) is fascinating.
Two more Twitter things that we could use the authors insight on:

1) Some are RT'ing that we should all change Twitter account settings to Iran TimeZone and Location. I suspect this would be BAD because many aggregators look to this for in-country source material. The on-the-ground folks would lose their relevance.

I realize the IRG can use twitter to trace protestors, but there's a reason these folks are using twitter and posting as often as they can. Besides, IRG already knows the 20+ main twitter accounts.

2) Folks are saying not to publish the @twittername of sources to protect their identities. I believe this misguided as most names are pseudonyms already and by using the @twittername we verify authenticity and spread the news of who the good twits are. Comment?

One person's answer to #1 just appeared on my TwitterFall, Any Comments?

I recieved an email this morning telling me I was being followed by someone on twitter.So being curious I clicked to follow said person, to be told this persons account has been suspended due to strange activity.
Not using @name will undercut twitter because it will undermine the trusted source such as @moussavi1338 or @persianwiki. When all messages are treated the same in "Message from Iran", every tweet message become suspect. Don't do this.
peech, I agree that protecting Tweeters ids is important, but the cat was out of the bag on these three very followed tweeters a while ago.
rdbilly - that happens a lot. If a spammer follows you but has been reported as a spammer by other users, sometimes by the time you check their profile Twitter has already removed them. I don't see what that has to do with the folks sending out tweets from Iran.

I did notice that one of these people put them name on the account. That one I'm not retweeting. I figure someone has let them know to change that info, but once it's published, that's pretty much it.

I knew someone would say it wasn't people in Iran. However, as you point out there isn't much logic in that assertion at this point in time. One that I'm following puts up pics and those pics are definitely coming from inside Tehran. The person who wrote that article has no clue about how Twitter or new media works. They'd be adopting the same icon even if they were on Facebook or MySpace.

As regarding @ev, yeah, that's how I learned that tweets were being sent out of Iran and started following them. @ev sent out a tweet. Yeah, Twitter!

Best of luck to the Iranian twitters, this accusation is as good as debunked.
Peech, this article was already widely circulated, and the names it mentions have been all over Twitter for a long time. You can be sure the Iranian authorities are already tracking them. Early on, it was possible they had missed Twitter and I was among those urging Iranian protesters who were still using their real names and pictures on Twitter to switch to anonymous accounts and delete their old accounts.

BlueinTexas, I agree that the 'switch location to Tehran' campaign is of questionable use. I get the idea, and like the sense of solidarity, but the confusion hurts everyone, and the authorities can pretty quickly tell who is genuinely tweeting from Tehran, just from the content. The key is for the protesters to stay anonymous.

changing your location & timezone to Tehran is important - iranian tweeters are saying so - helps confuse the security forces and makes the *real* iranian tweeters more anonymous. @justinf
Oh, that's a good idea justinf. Sending out this tweet right now:
"Please retweet: change your location & timezone to Tehran - Iranian tweeters are saying so - helps confuse security forces #IranElection"

Copy it, tweet it and let people know. That's a great idea.

Peech... I think it's been established who the Iranians Tweeters are. It's not like they can't just search twitter and find their IDs all over the place.

Secondly, finding a common enemy is a tactic. It has been used throughout history to unify a disjointed people, usually with a violent result. There are groups of protesters out there trying to direct attention to anything but the election... hate for America, hate for the UK, and hate for Israel. Anything to get the people off the election and onto a common enemy. But it's not working because, I believe, common people in Iran are more concerned with their own country and don't buy into the conspiracy theories about the usual suspects. Any thinking person should say to themselves, "Is it really possible that this little tiny country across the desert is at fault for all of our problems?" Someone should question the motivations of the groups promoting a common enemy since they have much more to gain by drawing attention from the election than the millions of people around the world who are following their plight with great interest and concern.

Your counter arguments were equally lame.

The fact is you don't have any way of knowing if these twitter accounts are from Iran, Israel, or the North Pole.

One of the problems of using Twitter as a news source.

Contrarian, Twitter's engineers can tell. Which is why I asked them. And if you were faking an account would you dare tweet something as obviously falsifiable as this?

On this one, I think you can climb off your skeptical high-horse.

Thank you from say the truth
Israelis dont hate Iranians.
Our problem is with their leaders.. sorry their dictators.
they support terror, kill gays and other people, isolate themelves from the world, brainwash their citizens aginst USA and Israel, do election just for the show but the superme leader's favorite will be the president

why? I dont know.. ask them..

Am I the only one bothered that Twitter gave out private information to a third party just because they asked? Why would Twitter give the author of this article inside info about the location of @change_for_Iran's Tweets? That should be private.
all points are valid...
Thanks for writing this article. I was afraid I was the only sane person left in the world after reading that stupid, stupid article by Charting Stocks...
This theory is getting way too much coverage.. I guess the old 3 certainties of life prevail... (death, taxes and TheZionistsDidIt!!)
It is a bit troubling that tweets are still coming in at a fast and furious pace while by all accounts, access from Iran has been blocked for some time.
I checked with Change_for_Iran and StopAhmadi about re-tweating with userIDs. StopAhmadi didn't see a problem with it.Change said that in order to Tweet, the Iranian Tweeters had to be behind so much protective software that locating them based on theirTweets would be very difficult. The IDs of kiwi, Change, StopAhmadi, iran09, mahdi, jadi, and so many other Tweeters have already been re-Tweeted countless times, but they are still around. Leaving off their IDs is helpful for us in that it gives us more space to RT, but for those who know which Tweeters they trust and which ones they do not, it is very unhelpful to RT without user IDs. I have been leaving off IDs except in a few cases out of precaution and also as away to free up Tweeting space; but at the same time, I have become much more particular about whose Tweets I RT and what kind of "info" I RT. I don't want to be passing off pure rumours without alerting folks about who authored those rumours.
Another major flaw in the boot-strapped argument of the article is that the information being posted is verifiable. What do I mean? Much of the information posted on Twitter was also being reported (albeit usually much later) by known journalists. As Iran restricts foreign journalist this collaboration is decreasing but for the early tweets, it was there. That means the news they were reporting was legit. That may not mean much to the author of the Israel Conspiracy, but to me it does.

I might add, many of their tweets are also supported by the pics and videos posted.

@PinkMuslimah I agree. Use your commonsense in retweeting and if the possibility exists that the person you are retweeting is at risk - omit their id. But most have enough sense to post under assumed ids and to use precautions. They know they are at risk. So most are safe to retweet using their twitter ids. I don't think that by itself will allow them to be tracked. Just hope they are cleaning the cache on their computers well and often
Internet is back in Iran,ppl get access to twitter & FB, there's no suspicious in this. Most ppl know abt proxy anyway
@ff11: They are using proxy servers to get around the blocks. The whole internet isn't blocked, just some of the sites. The other trick is that Twitter can be utilized from tons of apps that wouldn't get stuck in the government block.
Twitter has achieved some incredible results in times of great need- indeed deserving of recognition and inclusion in national disaster management strategies.

I started following via twitter when Mumbai was attacked on 26/11 last year. The information flowed better than the press. Later, it was useful for so much such as lists of injured and dead, blood group requirements etc. No administration can cope with so much alone, which is where twittizenship(is that a word, now it is) has a valuable role.

At the very least a book!

Internet is back in Iran,ppl get access to twitter & FB, there's no suspicious in this. Most ppl know abt proxy anyway
BlueinTexas, I agree that the 'switch location to Tehran' campaign is of questionable use. I get the idea, and like the sense of solidarity, but the confusion hurts everyone, and the authorities can pretty quickly tell who is genuinely tweeting from Tehran, just from the content. The key is for the protesters to stay anonymous.
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