Thursday, July 9, 2009

Iran, Michael Jackson, and the Internet

News events that two years ago would have had absolutely nothing in common were tied together last week by communication capabilities – the Iranian election protests and the death of Michael Jackson. Several articles have been written in recent days about the impact Twitter had on both stories. The information could not be contained and, although it was not always completely accurate, people had it instantly.

As news spread, through Twitter and other outlets, people hopped onto the Internet to learn more. There were so many Google searches conducted that, according to BBC News, Google thought it was under cyber-attack. In her June 26, 2009 article on, Maggie Sheils said, “Google’s trends page showed that searches for Michael Jackson had reached such a volume that in the so-called “hotness” gauge the topic was rated “volcanic.”

One newsman commented that journalists once confirmed stories like these with two reliable sources before releasing them. There would have been a potential delay of several hours as information was gathered and verified. Now, a member of the paparazzi on stakeout at the Jackson home alerts the media and the news is in Japan in seconds. A cell phone in Iran records a demonstration and people thousands of miles away watch it on Facebook moments later.

Technology is reshaping our world. The communication “cat” is out of the bag and nothing can stuff it back in. Governments and celebrity families must accept that no matter how hard they try to suppress it, news about them will be around the world before they can blink. Concealing information is almost impossible now. Whether the news is about a suppressive government, a crooked state politician or a troubled rock star, we will know about it in an instant. While this may be a terrible burden for the Jackson family and the Iranian government, it is a ray of hope for the rest of us.

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