Twitter Hacked by Iranian Cyber Army – Where is the real-time conversation?

All social media sites are covering this breaking story:

TWITTER HAS BEEN HACKED.
(maybe it was only a DNS attack, but no one is sure at this point. Most headlines are reading “HACKED”)

By whom? A group who calls themselves the “Iranian Cyber Army” (evidently you can e-mail them at [email protected] (gmail, really?)

(screenshot of http://www.mowjcamp.org/, another hacked site that supports freedom and human rights in Iran)

Twitter is going mad with people talking about it. “Iranian Cyber Army” is the most popular search on Google right now.


I am following over 500 people, mostly located in California and Sydney, Australia. NO ONE is tweeting about this breaking news. Most of the west coast is probably asleep by now (maybe not on a Friday night). But Australians are still tweeting! Maybe it is timing. Again, it is Friday night (just past happy hour here). Most people have left their social media maven tweets at work and are enjoying the social aspect of the technology. But I think this is BIG NEWS.

Twitter’s reliability is again being questioned. Mashable asked how it could compete with Facebook with security issues like this. I see a bigger problem. Most of us don’t use Facebook and Twitter for the same reasons. That being said, will we continue to use Twitter to share breaking news, or will we find another more secure platform? Is this switch possible? Will Twitter encounter a backlash for yet another site failure? There are many questions people will attempt to answer in the next view days. (Does this mean less talk about the Google Phone?)

While most articles are focusing on the Twitter fail, I am more interested in the effect this will have on politics. Who is the Iranian Cyber Army? What message are they trying to send to the US? I am sure it has to do with #iranelection and using Twitter to share information with the rest of the world. How will the US Government respond to this attack? How will the Iranian Government respond? This story is bigger than some twitterers not being able to update their status for an hour.

But…what if… it is all some stupid prank? After tweeting about it, I got a reply from @IranianCybrArmy who seems to be making light of the whole event. Funny? Not really.

Maybe I am taking this too seriously. Oh no, Twitter is down, it’s the end of the world! I’m not one of those people. But I am interested in the role social media plays in politics. If this was a legitimate attack, social media as we know it is about to change.

As I write this blog, the story continues to break. I’m obviously ready and excited for the real-time web. But is everyone else? As soon as I heard about this attack I searched Google for more information. I came across articles from the regular sites (Mashable, TechCrunch, Gizmodo, CNN, and more). Next I checked the trending twitter topics, and “Iranian Cyber Army” was among the top. The tweets are still flowing at high volumes – too high to find any quality information! Real-time curation is definitely needed. How can we find the gems when they don’t make it on Google’s front page and they are lost among thousands of tweets? I am looking for information on who the Iranian Cyber Army is, but I might wait until the experts report on their research in the morning.

Here is the real-time challenge: can we have a conversation while the story is unfolding? I started a “fyre” on LiveFyre, a place for real-time conversations on articles, blogs, multimedia, and other content. The site launched less than 2 weeks ago, so my discussion isn’t going anywhere at the moment (also because it’s the middle of the night for most users). LiveFyre is a great way to discuss topics in real-time. What I find so great about it is that it allows you to write 300 character comments, making it much easier to get important points across than with Twitter. You still have the ability to send updates to Twitter and Facebook, but it doesn’t require you to bombard your stream with the conversation as other live chats do. Another great feature is “breakout” streams, allowing users to continue a discussing a related topic. There are many things to discuss about the Twitter attack, we just need to get it started!

Come join the conversation on LiveFyre. Let’s utlise this real-time technology to discuss meaningful topics that are unfolding as we type.

Social Media Club Question of the Week: Who to trust? Verifying social media information

Social Media Club asked their 15th question this week keeping in mind the protests regarding the Iran Election.

#SMCQ15 How do you know who to trust within the social media environment?

Listen to the Question of the Week Podcast to hear to the discussion. Here are my thoughts on the matter:

I have been watching CNN a little too religiously over the past few days, trying to stay up to date on the Iran election protests. CNN is using Twitter, Facebook, YouTube to report what is happening on the ground because journalists have been forced to stop reporting. Many of the photos and videos being shown are said to be unverified, but the content still broadcasted over CNN and will interpreted as news by money. The CNN news reports often refer to tweets tagged #iranelection and read tweets from the last 30 seconds or minute. Obviously CNN is not checking the facts of these tweets coming in every few seconds, and I believe that can be misleading to people uniformed about Twitter and the situation at hand.

Does content gain credibility when it is retweeted? If so, I agree with @ChrisHeuer when he said that we need to critically analyze the information, look back in their tweets, and try to check their sources. I found some videos on YouTube of building explosions in Tehran, and they had low views. Was this original footage? I contacted the user to see if he was in Tehran, and he responded that he was in Italy and resubmitting videos to help share them online. He also has a blog where he said he gets information from “trusted people,” but I am still unclear of his credibility. The information from his blog is written in English, Italian, and large sections of Farsi (translated page here). Even if it is not accurate, some of the Farsi translations are powerful words. Share this site with others, and please let us know if you find out if it is a trustworthy source.

I have joined the conversation by sharing articles and content online, and I changed my avatar to green to show my support for Mussavi and citizens of Iran. At first I was watching because of the use of social media, but didn’t want to take a stance until I investigated the history of Iran and its people. I agree with Mussavi and his politics, and I support my generation and their efforts to make sure their voices are heard and votes counted.

#IranElection: A Cyber Revolution?

I recently completing a paper on the use of social media as a backchannel in natural disasters and political action (to be posted later), and I finished reading Howard Rheingold’s Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution. My timing, unfortunately, couldn’t have been set up better. Footage of the current protests surrounding the Iran Election are all over CNN – but this isn’t your mainstream video being shown to the world. It is video made by the citizens of Iran, because the Iranian government has shut down foreign media and are censoring what is being shown on their networks. But thanks to information communication technologies and social media, the world has been able to see what is really going on. Pictures submitted by citizen journalists show the streets packed with people, everyone with their phones or cameras high in the air, trying to capture the event to share it with the rest of the world.

The Iranian government has been working to block these social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, and now they have blocked internet access, SMS, and soon the phones as well. Iranian protesters are working to report the event while keeping their identities anonymous, afraid of what may happen to them if they are caught. People in other countries are trying to help, as Twitter users change their locations and profiles to confuse the government. As reported on CNN, Internet users outside of the US are sending proxies to people in Iran to give them fake IP addresses that place them outside of Iran. The grassroots efforts that often stem from cyber citizens are working hard combat the government’s efforts to censor the images coming out of Tehran, really turning this into a sort of “cyber war.”

This is not the first time information communication technologies (ICT), social media, or smart mobs have helped spread messages of political activism or shared breaking news with the world. This is one of the first times however, that social media and citizen journalism (or reporting) has become a leading source of information regarding the status of people on the ground in Tehran.

The first time I saw the real power of citizen journalism, whether it was meant to be or not, was after the US Airways flight landed in the Hudson River. The Twitpic of the plane in the water, with passengers standing on the wing, instantly had tens of thousands of views within a few hours. I realized at that point that technology is affecting how we see the world, and how we spread messages through massive networks. This is only one small example of how ICTs are used as a back channel. Hurricane Katrina, the Southern California Wildfires, and even the Seattle World Trade Organization protest. While many people use Facebook and Twitter mainly for social means, soon it will be hard to avoid learning about current events through social media sites. That’s where I first learned about the Hudson River landing in the first place!

While I don’t have very much background on the Iranian election and I don’t want to make assumptions, I do believe the government doesn’t have the right to censor the protest. The police are being very brutal, which has led to disturbing videos of the violence that is occurring. If the Iranian Government thinks that after the protests the problem will just go away, they have another thing coming to them. The protests have been documented and broadcasted to the world, and it will not be forgotten. This is not the last time social media and ICTs will have an impact on political action and natural disasters, and it is the job of scholars (hopefully me some day!) to study the information citizens are sharing and figuring out ways to be more prepared for the next event. The beauty of the Web is that all of this information is archived, and it will be available to analyze for further studies.

To view photos, videos, or information about the #IranElection, check out www.ireport.com or search #IranElection in google, but I must warn that many of the photos and videos are extremely graphic. The web doesn’t have to be censored, so we are really seeing the real picture.