Rumours are not confined to Twitter

June 19, 2009

1358413147_98ad7712b4_o.jpg

The Washington Post appears to have inaccurately reported that "the Twitter interface does not support the use of Farsi".

The ‘fact’ that Twitter didn’t support Farsi was news to me because I have been watching tweets come into my Twitter feed in Farsi. (Fairly useless from my point of view because I can’t read them, but I do vaguely know what Farsi looks like.)

I asked our own resident Farsi expert, Alex Strick van Linschoten, about a couple of extracts* I pulled from Twitter. He told me that they use Farsi script and "specifically Farsi characters" refuting the outside possibility that people might be using Arabic scripting to tweet in Farsi. (The two languages share similar alphabets).

I don’t have any technical knowledge of Twitter’s inner workings. Maybe there is some cunning way in which you can get Farsi tweets on Twitter even though the Twitter interface doesn’t support the use of Farsi. If this is the case, I’d very interested to hear from you. But to me this looks like a mistake by the Washington Post.

I did try to contact the Twitter people for their thoughts but they are not even recording messages on their answer machine at the moment, no doubt inundated with calls, and my email will probably be waiting in a long queue.

And there’s more.

Ironically, the ‘fact’ that Twitter doesn’t support Farsi was cited by a Comment is Free article in The Guardian entitled ‘The revolution will not be Twittervised‘. In this piece, Joshua Kucera tries to make the case that journalists are much better at quashing rumours than Twitter.

I do have some sympathy with this argument, although I would say that good journalism, whoever it’s done by, is better at refuting rumours than Twitter.

But unfortunately it’s rather undermined when you find that the Washington Post’s Twitter ‘fact’ about Farsi has been repeated by Kucera in The Guardian and also by Business Week and WeEarth.com and IslamOnline and TelegraphIndia, (and of course, on Twitter.)

I’m sure there’s more rumour on Twitter than there is in the Washington Post. But rumour’s been around for some time and crops up in all sorts of places…Meanwhile Google reportedly steps up the pace of a Farsi -English/English-Farsi translation tool.

*Extracts I sent to Alex

The first @Iranbaan:

iranbaanکرباسچی در پاسخ به موضعگیری رهبرگفت: ما هم نمی‌گیم نظام تقلب کرده.
> عده‌ای خاص این کارو کردن
> about 1 hour ago from web
>   iranbaanکرباسچی به بی‌بی‌سی گفت: وزارت کشور هنوز به درخواست مجوز ما برای
> راهپیمایی فردا جواب مکتوب نداده و باید ببینیم چه
> about 1 hour ago from web
>   iranbaanکرباسچی: ما استناد به نظام نکردیم میدانیم نظام امین است Ùˆ متوسل به
> ارکان همین نظام شدیم تا شکایت ها را بررسی کنند
> about 1 hour ago from web
>   iranbaanکرباسچی: ما متکی به موارد قانونی هستیم Ùˆ موارد قانونی به اندازه
> کافی هست برای تحت تاثیر قرار دادن انتخابات
> about 1 hour ago from web
>   iranbaanکرباسچی در بی بی سی هست ببینید
> about 1 hour ago from web
>   iranbaanکرباسچی: راهپیمایی فردا برای تجلیل از شهدای روزهای اخیر است
> about 1 hour ago from web
>   madyarتلفن های زندان اوین را امروز قطع کردند
> about 1 hour ago from web

And @khamenei_ir (which may or may not be the official feed of Iran’s Supreme leader)

> می گن کروبی بازداشت شده؟ کی خبر داره که راست یا نه. انقدر شایعه هست که آدم
> می مونه
> about 2 hours ago from web
>   وبلاگ نویسان زندانی: محمدعلی ابطحی. مهساامرآبادی, کریم ارغنده پور, عماد
> بهاور, شیوانظرآهاری, مجتبی پور محسن و سمیه توحیدلو
> about 2 hours ago from web

Photograph of the word Twitter in Arabic (and not Farsi…) by Arabic Tattoo design.



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3 thoughts on “Rumours are not confined to Twitter”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Farsi script is actually Arabic, it only has 4 more letters. And so what’s printed above reading “twitter” is both farsi and arabic, no difference.
    About farsi in twitter. twitter, or any other software for that matter, only need to support UTF encoding system, and if so –that nowadays all softwares do,– they automatically support all the languages in the world. Only to read them in your personal computer, you need to have installed that characters into your system.

  2. Since when did a genuine journalist ignore a lead? Never mind dozens of leads all saying much the same thing, as was often the case on Twitter this week.
    And what about the images and videos, how many of those are just ‘rumours’?

  3. @Anonymous – Thanks for your clarification on the language issues. Don’t tell him, but I’m going to pass the blame to my editor who was responsible for the picture!
    @Little Richardjohn – Indeed. A very good point. Perhaps it’s a matter of attitude. Web-savvy journalists might see ‘leads’, while their less aware counterparts might see ‘rumours’. The New York Times noted the other day that through Twitter “the news tips that reporters have always relied upon are now being aired in public.” More here – http://bit.ly/fJS4j

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