Twitter Friday: Twitter as a Weapon of Mass Distraction |

Twitter Friday: Twitter as a Weapon of Mass Distraction

By Tad Chef / June 26, 2009

What’s the most important issue today? The death of Michael Jackson? No, it’s more of an distraction. Most probably the economy, your health or family still matter most to you. You got distracted anyways. Last week another issue was more important than anything else it seemed. It was the election in Iran or rather the ensuing backlash.

Now I don’t mean to say that the Iranian election wasn’t important. It was perhaps one of the more important issues lately compared to the misguided swine flu craze or todays celebrity death.

What’s more striking is that the US government was keen to make the point that the Iran issue was so important that it asked Twitter to postpone its scheduled maintenance.

So the US state department obviously recognized that Twitter was crucial to its interests in Iran. This was really news because usually we don’t hear much about direct government involvement in making news or getting the news heard the government prefers. It happens all the time but in most cases behind the scenes.

What does it tell us about Twitter as of today:

  • Twitter has become a crucial mass medium
  • Governments make sure their voice gets heard on and via Twitter
  • Twitter has the power to distract
  • Twitter can make the world population focus on one single issue at a time
  • Twitter is the first truly globalized medium

Twitter also is a so called “weapon of mass distraction”

Remember? In recent years we were mostly told that Iran is

  • evil (hates Jews, women and gays)
  • dangerous
  • “a regime” rules there.

Also Iran allegedly develops nuclear weapons (weapons of mass destruction). The US was always short of invading Iran.

Not only the US government cares for Twitter. Iranian government agents have been reported to use Twitter to spread misinformation as well. So you see that Twitter is not really a medium you can trust to be impartial.

Single tweets and whole trends can be be entirely fake or meant to distract you.

We have seen the swine flu panic spread virally unlike the virus itself that took weeks or months to spread and until now it was less deadly than most average seasonal flu viruses.

So there is a striking misrepresentation spreading via Twitter. How can you deal with that? Stop using twitter altogether? Well, no. You won’t stop reading newspapers or watching TV either inspite of them spreading lies repeatedly as well. Like with all mass media you can’t trust them. Unlike with old media like newspapers and TV though here we have a way to determine directly what’s true and what not by relying on personal networks.

Listen to the people you know already.

I knew some bloggers and social media users from Iran before the recent elections so I could ask them. I didn’t trust the hastily made up accounts all in green, all in English with almost the same avatars everywhere (in English as well).

Former president Bush readily acknowledged years ago that the US is engaging in infiltration and sabotage inside Iran. So basically you never now what’s going on out there unless you find a person you can trust. Robert Fisk is a journalist who is an expert on the Middle East for decades by now and he went to Iran himself.

No what the hell does it mean for Twitter, marketing and business? Well, you can read tons of business, marketing and SEO advice on Twitter but can you really trust it?

  • Anonymous SEO experts with names like “SEOsomething”?
  • Kevin Rose of Digg who banned SEO there and now advises you how to artificially inflate your umber of followers on Twitter?
  • SEO celebrities with 30k followers?

I don’t think so. You need people you really trust. You only know you can trust someone when you communicate with that person.

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