How Twitter Shamed CNN with #IranElection and #CNNFail



UPDATE: June 15, 2009 2:54 p.m. ET
Excellent coverage by the Huffington Post via Twitter:

AP releases images of the gunfire victims in Tehran via @HuffPolitics #iranelection

4:17 p.m. ET
The Twitter Effect

In case you missed it @biz, @Twitter Co-Founder, posted about the maintenance reschedule #IranElection

7:38 p.m. ET
Check out The Twitter Effect via
Jason Pollock here:

I’m wearing #Green for the #IranElection & a #FreeIran. Read this & Pass it on 🙂 –>

June 16, 2009 1:48  p.m. ET
The New York Times has a great article out on how Rick Sanchez ‘defended’ CNN — the best part and the whole point of the Twitter Effect:

The Tehran protests were covered throughout the weekend during CNN’s normal news hours, but they were not treated as breaking news worthy of the rolling live coverage that cable news is known for.

Original article continued below…


This weekend something happened to the news world that rocked it to its core…literally. It was shaken up, spit on and a different source for information emerged.

The world is watching as news unfolds, just they are not watching on television.

Twitter shamed CNN, Fox News and other American network news stations by, not only calling them out for NOT giving full coverage to the 2009 Iranian Election, but by its users taking it upon themselves to report to the entire world what was really going on.

Last week Iran underwent a major election between the reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi and the incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The world waited as the results began to slowly trickle in illustrating that Ahmadinejad was the winner…by a landside. Mousavi is currently calling for the election results to be nullified.

For some unknown reason, for all the coverage that was given to the Iranian election prior to the results being voiced, the same coverage, if not better, coverage was forgotten when the city of Tehran and other major Iranian cities burst into flames, riots and mass demonstrations because of the landside ‘victory’ by Ahmadinejad.

It’s been going on for nearly 72-hours, where the mullahs who control the country have tried (and in some cases succeeded) in blocking access to the Internet, mobile phone calls and all sorts of coverage by the media who is actually on the ground.

What they forget about was Twitter.

I could open my TweetDeck right now, or jump on to TweetGrid, and with more than six #hashtags and keywords follow the riots in real-time as they are happening; real news, from real people who are really there.

Thanks for nothing mainstream American media:

@JomhuriyeIran: RT @nansen “The Revolution will be Twittered”. #Iranelection #CNNfail #FoxNewsFail #MSMfail  

@Oxfordgirl: Impossible to know how many of these tweets from Uni dorm are real, but the battle is there. #iranelection #iranelections

@Change_for_Iran other sources: this isn’t the police! police is still outside! we’re under attack by Ansar-Hezbolah. #iranelection

@JustPlainBill RT @IranRiggedElect: sources from Tehran: ppl are killed, ppl are in blood, tehran is hell. #iranelection #cnnfail

dammitdexter: Video: Ahmadinejad attacked and escapes on car’s roof at Sharrif University today: #iranelection #tehran #mousavi

@TimOBrienNYT: An updated list of English-language Twitterers who appear to be inside Iran, by location: #iranelection

@eyerait: BBC links to internet resources providing news: #cnnfail #iranelection

JeremyMeyers: Follow @iranriggedelect and @change_for_iran for real-time updates on whats happening.

@Ghattavi students hold two militias as hostage, loads of motor oil is spread on the streets [to make bikers slip] #iranelection

DragonI: Liked “5,525 Tweets Per Hour at #IranElection (via @stevegarfield)”

@michael_duvall: #CNNFail – Twitter users blast CNNs lack of Iranian election coverage –

@james_gunn #cnnfail? At this point I’m more for #USMediaFail

@JonHutson: Int’l Campaign for Human Rights in #Iran confirms detention of at least 20 opposition politicians & journalists #IranElection

@mashable HOW TO: Track Iran Election with Twitter and Social Media

And most of all?

Twitter (through @ev) has confirmed that @Change_for_Iran‘s tweets are genuinely emanating from within Iran #iranelection

“Ev” is Evan Williams, the CEO of Twitter.

As a Millennial I’m proud of my generation for embracing the technologies available to them and getting information across the seas as it is happening.

The biggest question right now is whether Mousavi’s safety will be guaranteed or not.

It’s profound, it’s riveting and it’s a first.

You can follow online via the BBC here.
Or view these:
Tweeting from in Iran:


Sasha Muradali runs the ‘Little Pink Book’ . She holds a B.S. in Public Relations from the University of Florida and an M.A. in International Administration from the University of Miami. She loves Twitter and all things social media, so you should find her @SashaHalima.

Copyright © 2009 Sasha H. Muradali. All Rights Reserved.


  1. This blog post is a good example of how Twitter will help reshape the news gathering and reporting process going forward. Twitter is great at answering the immediate “who,” “what” and “where” questions. But now let me disagree with your post a little bit. I find it hard to believe Twitter will replace “traditional” media in answering the “how” and “why” questions. It is not possible to get quality and in-depth analysis of a geo-political event (or any event) in just 140 characters. Sure, Twitter is great at breaking news. But news reporting is so much more than that. I’ll still rely on my New York Times, Wall Street Journal and CNN for the in-depth analysis.

  2. Great Post!

  3. Tony Montana says
  4. Great post! My friend and I were just discussing how we’re getting most of our information from Twitter rather than traditional news outlets. I agree with the person above me in that Twitter can’t offer in-depth analysis, but at least it keeps us informed about breaking news. I think its great that Twitter has become a platform where people can demand a certain type of information, and lets the news outlets know that they’re failing to provide it! I hope CNN and other news outlets take notice (and address) CNNFail, and don’t allow something like this to happen in the future.

  5. Sheema, you hit the nail on the head.
    I think Twitter is absolutely the best source for breaking news because of what it offers and it’s platform. Obviously in 140 characters you are not going to get a indepth news story — but can be linked to a) that or b) something much greater, real-time video and pictures as it happens because the normal news outlets get it.
    That’s where I think people underestimate Twitter and try to sell it short.

    But again, the main point? Why in the world did CNN and alike not cover the issue when it rise arose? Something is very WRONG w/ that and that’s where, again, social media comes into play — being a watchdog.

  6. Great point about social media acting as a watchdog. It’s funny, thats why newspapers came about in the first place, but now that it’s not fulfilling that function, social media has taken its place. I should have done my dissertation on this!

  7. haha! Would have been a a great topic!

  8. Thanks 🙂

  9. how do know for sure that all the twitter feeds and words you read are accurate? U dont.

    also what about Twitter in Farsi, how do we translate that? we dont, we rely on English.

    Lets not get carried away here about the Twitter watchdog as someone previously calls it.

    Useful but imho not as over the top as you portray it

  10. Dylan, thanks for your comment! I always love to read different POVs.
    I think you should check out this article by the New York Times —

    I think it’ll help you better understand where some people, including myself, are coming from with #CNNfail — where Twitter provided the coverage and the facilitation of getting coverage where CNN failed too (but did eventually.)

  11. Most excellent post!

    Twitter = HUMINT (Human Intel)
    You= R/A (Research/Analysis)

    Tweets from Iran in English? Most educated Iranians speak english, educated tweets. Ha. As for their authenticity, man, you just gotta trust people. And hopefully know enough to figure out the fib.

    Most large media outlets like CNN, FOX, and NYT are just selling advertisements. Also, just an idea for ‘someone’ to call them and say, ‘hey, we want out of this for a while, this way ‘they’ can’t say we are fanning the flames.’ And yes, that happens.

    Yet here, the people have spoken. Tweet the World!

  12. Hey there Erick, thank you so much for your input on this post. I think you are thinking along the same wave length quite a few of us out there have been since Friday Jun 12 when the entire thing started to erupt.

    That being said, I definitely think Twitter us underestimated by some. Also, it doesn’t matter how many people actually use Twitter, but it’s of those people, how ‘their message’ is able to ‘get out.’

    Often it’s the news that counts. In this case, the source of the news seems to be as important as the news itself.

  13. Unfortunately – in this crisis no matter who wins Iran, democracy and freedom loses…

    Mousavi and Ahmedinejad are cut from the same radical, Islamist cloth.

  14. Unfortunately – in this crisis no matter who wins Iran, democracy and freedom loses…

    Mousavi and Ahmedinejad are cut from the same radical, Islamist cloth.

  15. Unfortunately – in this crisis no matter who wins Iran, democracy and freedom loses…

    Mousavi and Ahmedinejad are cut from the same radical, Islamist cloth.