A Look at Twitter in Iran

By Mark Evans - Sunday, June 21st, 2009 at 8:25 am  

Over the past two weeks since the Iranian presidential elections and the subsequent protests about the results that saw incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attract 66% of the votes cast while rival Mir-Hossein Mousavi received 33%, Twitter has emerged as a key tool used by many Iranians to talk about what’s happening.

Twitter’s value as a communications tool was highlighted when the U.S. State Department asked Twitter to postpone scheduled maintenance so Iranians would have access to the service at a time when thousands were taking to the streets to protest.

To get some insight into how many Iranians are using Twitter, and how Twitter is being used to talk about the presidential election, Sysomos analyzed its database to pull some of the more interesting facts.

As a starting point, there are now 19,235 Twitter users in Iran, compared with 8,654 in mid-May. (Note: We determined the number of users by reindexing over 13 million Twitter accounts. Location is based on the information provided in a user’s profile. Update: Locations are based on information as disclosed in May for users who joined before June to avoid counting those who changed it later to Tehran).

Next, we looked to see when Twitter accounts were created over the past 15 months. As you can see from the chart below, the number of Twitter users in Iran has grown strongly in 2009 with the most active months being March and June when 9.81% and 9.93% of all Twitter accounts were created respectively.twitteriranchart1

Here’s a table that shows when Twitter accounts were created in Iran.

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Of all Iranian Twitter users, 93% are located in Tehran, while 0.94% are in Shiraz and 0.83% in Mashhad.

Iran Chart-1

To get a sense of what Twitter users in Iran were talking about before and after the presidential election, we created two buzz graphs – one on June 11 (the day before the election) and another done on June 19. (A buzz chart shows the major discussions taking place, and the associations between these topics.)

On June 11, there was a lot of conversation about presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi with the strongest association to “Iran”, “freedom”, “Iran” and “vote”.

Buzzgraphjune11

On June 19, the major conversations coming from Iranian Twitter users involved the keywords “Iran”, which had the strongest links to “Mousavi”, “Tehran” and “Protest”. This reflects the protests taking place in Tehran by Mousavi’s supporters.

Buzzgraphjune19

We also looked into the Tweets using the query “Iran Election”. On June 11, 51.3% of all these Tweets came from Iran, while 27% came outside the country, and 21.6% of Tweets did not include a location.

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On June 19, 40.3% Tweets about the election came from outside Iran as the media and blog coverage about the protests in Tehran attracted global attention. Meanwhile, the percentage of Tweets from Iran fell to 23.8%, while 35.7% of users did not provide a location. The lower percentage of Tweets from Iran could also could be due to reports the Iranian government is blocking access to the Internet and Twitter.

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More: The New York Times has a story looking at how Twitter is being used to organize political protests in Iran, and six lessons to be taken into consideration, while techPresident has a post looking at how reTweeting is a form of reporting.

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