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Twitter, NTT Avoid Cutting Off Iran Protests

Twitter
NEW YORK -- Twitter said that its Web host, NTT America, held off on critical maintenance to its network to ensure that Iranians wouldn't be cut off from the service, which many are using to communicate with the outside world or organize protests in the wake of the country's controversial presidential election results.

Twitter and NTT America, a unit of Japan's NTT Communications Corp., had previously agreed to an hour of downtime Monday night in the U.S. for what Twitter co-founder Biz Stone had called "a critical network upgrade [that] must be performed to ensure continued operation of Twitter."

However, the hour-long downtime would have occurred in the middle of the day in Iran -- complicating efforts by protesters to coordinate protests and communicate with friends and family.

When Twitter's other co-founder, Jack Dorsey, took the stage at the 140 Characters conference here today, he thanked NTT America for pushing back the hour-long service interruption.

"NTT America delayed downtime to avoid interrupting what's going on in Iran," Dorsey said.

As a result of the change, Twitter will go down briefly at 2 PM PT today for scheduled maintenance. At that time, it will be about 1:30 AM in Iran.

Back in California, Stone last night added in a blog post that

"Our network partners at NTT America recognize the role Twitter is currently playing as an important communication tool in Iran," he wrote. "Our partners are taking a huge risk not just for Twitter but also the other services they support worldwide -- we commend them for being flexible in what is essentially an inflexible situation."

Twitter's role

Discussions about the Iranian elections and the protests are currently dominating the microblogging service, with #iranelection now the most popular hashtag on the site, followed by #Tehran.

Some Twitter users are urging CNN to cover the issue 24/7. Others claimed that if everyone changed their time zone to Tehran, Iran's capital, then the censors would be unable to prevent Iranians from using Twitter.

Some just Tweeted, "I am okay."

If indeed the protesters are using Twitter, it won't be the first time the tool has been used to track authoritarian police. Last year, James Karl Buck, a U.S. citizen in Egypt used Twitter to tell his friends that the police had arrested him, and he was rescued by the U.S. Embassy.

Government 2.0

Nor is Iran the only place where Twitter and government meet. At today's conference, Dorsey said that when he visited Iraq, he learned how much there was that needed to be done. "People found the task so overwhelming," he said.

[cob:Special_Report]He added that he was pleased to get Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister, Barham Salih, start twittering two or three times each day. At press time, Salih had 1,330 followers and was following 41 people including John McCain, Barack Obama and Al Gore.

Dorsey added that when members of the U.S. government use Twitter, it brings government closer to the people.

"I've never felt closer to the government," Dorsey said. "I've never felt our government was more human."