Skip to Content
Uncategorized

A Retweet Revolution Visualized

Interactive visualization shows flow of Twitter conversations during the 2009 Iranian election.

During the Iranian elections in June, microblogging site Twitter became a way for protesters to communicate with each other and with the rest of the world. Stories of oppression, police brutality, and violence spread via 140-character tweets despite the government’s efforts to filter Web content and control Web traffic inside the country.

A new visualization tool developed by Gilad Lotan, a programmer and designer at Microsoft Startup Labs, shows just how information related to the elections spread through Twitter, via the most popular Twitter conversations and retweets. Lotan used the open-source processing language Processing (recently reviewed here by TR) to show 372 “threads,” or related messages, out of 230,000 messages dated between June 14 and June 24. In his visualization, a growing bar represents a message thread over time, growing taller as more tweets and retweets are added. Clicking on a bar shows a glowing yellow orb, which represents the earliest found tweet of the thread.

While it’s unclear exactly how much of a difference Twitter made for people inside Iran, Lotan says, “It is unquestionable that Twitter’s unique characteristics prompted distributed reactions on a scale never seen before, engaging people all around the world.”

During the elections, many retweets dropped the attribution (@username) to protect dissenters’ identities. Interestingly, the retweet button that Twitter plans to implement wouldn’t allow users to drop attribution like this, and so might have prevented the same kind of anonymous diffusion of information.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

Workers disinfect the street outside Shijiazhuang Railway Station
Workers disinfect the street outside Shijiazhuang Railway Station

Why China is still obsessed with disinfecting everything

Most public health bodies dealing with covid have long since moved on from the idea of surface transmission. China’s didn’t—and that helps it control the narrative about the disease’s origins and danger.

individual aging affects covid outcomes concept
individual aging affects covid outcomes concept

Anti-aging drugs are being tested as a way to treat covid

Drugs that rejuvenate our immune systems and make us biologically younger could help protect us from the disease’s worst effects.

Europe's AI Act concept
Europe's AI Act concept

A quick guide to the most important AI law you’ve never heard of

The European Union is planning new legislation aimed at curbing the worst harms associated with artificial intelligence.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.