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Chisinau And Twitter

The scene in Chisinau on April 7

The scene in Chisinau on April 7

There's a lot of buzz over Twitter's possible role in the demonstrations that shook the Moldovan capital on April 6 and 7 (and 8?).

The European Council on Foreign Relations credits it with a major part, suggesting that "some 15,000 people, communicating through websites like 'Twitter,' took to the street..."

But some of the most thoughtful speculation is coming from Foreign Policy's Net Effect, which among other things points out that there appear to be mighty few Twitter users in Moldova.

A few of the most salient points that Net Effect's Evgeny Morozov makes are (in his words):

1. One paradox is that there are relatively few Twitter users in Moldova to start with.

2. Moldovans abroad played an important role by participating in the protests remotely by helping to keep the story alive via Twitter.

3. It really helped that even non-technology people in the U.S. and much of Western Europe are currently head over heels in love with Twitter.

4. The use of Twitter has been limited to mobilization of some local supporters and raising international awareness. It didn't really help much in coordinating actions of people who ARE already on the square, in part because they are offline.

5. There were some major differences with the Orange Revolution events in Ukraine. Here are just a few innovations that we have observed in Moldova that we didn't see five years ago: a) the ability to keep the story in the international news by "hijacking" the Twitter conversations b) the ability for Moldovans abroad to join in c) the availability of much more user-generated content directly from the field.

With the verdict still out and fresh arrests this morning as would-be demonstrators converge on downtown Chisinau, we'll refrain for now from referring to events there as a "revolution," much less a "Twitter revolution."

But that doesn't mean we're not looking into it.

UPDATE: Here's our story on how social-networking sites, text messages, and blogs drew protesters to the streets of Chisinau.

-- Andy Heil

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