July 11, 2009

Meet New Nobel Peace Prize Candidate: Twitter

The next time you surf the internet, you may bump into a Nobel Peace Prize candidate. A US security expert has proposed the honor for micro-blogging site Twitter, which helped protesters in Iran beat censorship and tell their tale to the world.

The free social-messaging utility uniquely documented and personalised the story of hope, heroism and horror in Iran, says Mark Pfeifle, former deputy national security adviser for strategic communications and global outreach at the US National Security Council.

"The video gave substance to what seemed so far away. We saw the look in her eyes as they went lifeless. We heard the sounds of her friends and family as they begged her to hold on. And she became the personification of the struggle for democracy in a country where voices for freedom are quelled," Pfeifle wrote in The Christian Science Monitor this week.

"Her name was Neda Agha-Soltan, and without Twitter we might never have known that she lived in Iran, that she dreamed of a free Iran, and that she died in a divided Iran for her dreams."

"Neda became the voice of a movement; Twitter became the megaphone. Twitter is a free social-messaging utility. It drove people around the world to pictures, videos, sound bites, and blogs in a true reality show of life, dreams, and death. Last month's marches for freedom and the violent crackdowns were not only documented but personalised into a story of mythic tragedy."

The article titled "A Nobel Peace Prize for Twitter?" notes that when journalists were forced to leave iran, Twitter became a "window for the world to view hope, heroism, and horror. It became the assignment desk, the reporter, and the producer. And, because of this, Twitter and its creators are worthy of being considered for the Nobel Peace Prize."

Is it a bit of a far-fetched proposal or merely a nice headline? Well, Pfeifle is fully serious.

"I first mentioned this idea while being interviewed on a cable news program. Many scoffed. That's understandable. But think about what Twitter has accomplished: It has empowered people to attempt to resolve a domestic showdown with international implications - and has enabled the world to stand with them. It laid the foundation to pressure the world to denounce oppression in Iran."

Twitter is a blog site where people tell their friends about the details of their lives, but a single message can have a maximum of 140 characters.

As many people in Iran came out on the streets against what they saw as fraud in the presidential elections last month, 140 characters were enough "to shine a light on Iranian oppression and elevate Twitter to the level of change agent. Even the government of Iran has been forced to utilize the very tool they attempted to squelch to try to hold on to power".

Without Twitter, the article argues, the world might have known little more than a losing candidate accusing the powers that be of alleged fraud. With Twitter, "they now shout hope with a passion and dedication that resonates not just with those on their street but with millions across the globe".

"Twitter and other social media outlets have become the soft weapons of democracy. Twitter told us the story of Neda's supreme sacrifice. It is telling the story of the Iranian people yearning to breathe free. For those reasons, Twitter deserves consideration for the Nobel Peace Prize."


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