Image via WikipediaSome commentators are now, quite properly, pointing to the very real failings of Twitter as an ongoing news source on the demonstrations taking pace in Iran.
This chap, Maximillian Forte, link kindly provided in a comment to this post by Graeme Baker, is certainly in that camp and provides a strong and lucid viewpoint.
It's perhaps interesting to look back over events in Iran and how Twitter, as a community, responded.
In the first phase, Twitter clearly led the news agendas of mainstream media, providing on the ground witness and a diversity of updates that caught the popular imagination - including triggering the #CNNfail protest that eventually forced the channel to react publicly and defend its woeful programming in the face of an important series of events.
In the second phase, Twitter started to clog up with useless ReTweets (RTs) of stale information as the public mood drove the need to be somehow participatory. The students in Iran who had been Tweeting updates fought to keep their links to the world open, but were battling not only those who wanted to silence them but trying to have their voices heard in the babble.
With the almost hysterical outbreak of wannabe participants came disinformation - calls to change your location to Tehran to protect the student Tweeters meant that now anyone could 'Tweet from Tehran' - and so more chaff joined the flow of information. That was made worse by a call to remove the ID of anyone you RTed in order to protect them - effectively depriving any information of a source.
If you weren't in the game early or close to people on the ground, and therefore following the right people, by now you were getting some pretty duff information - and fifteenth hand information, at that.
Phase three has been the complete breakdown of Twitter as a news source. The 'turn your avatar green' movement is a symptom of this. Vested interest has meant that clear disinformation is now being sewn into Twitter, with Tweets claiming that Arabs have been brought into Iran, stabbing people's sisters and so on.
But then Twitter was never meant to be a news resource and, I think most people would agree, can not be relied upon as a news resource beyond the fact that, as a platform, it lets fresh eye witness news travel fast. That first phase is where Twitter is potentially solid gold and where it has indeed led news agendas - not only inTehran, but also in the Mumbai bombings and other incidents.
Once it descends into fads and conversation, there is no news value in Twitter - as, indeed, there is rarely news value in conversations. That's just chattering - what the service, in fact, was built to do. Pointing to the chattering then squeaking about how useless Twitter is doesn't mask the fact that Twitter brought the streets of Iran to the desktops of millions of people across the world.
And CNN didn't.