US asks Twitter to stay up

2009-06-16 22:21

Washington - The US government asked Twitter to delay maintenance plans in order to allow Iranians to communicate while their government banned other media following elections, a US official said on Tuesday.

The official said the State Department had asked the social networking firm to delay shutting down its service to "highlight to them that this was an important means of communications... in Iran".

The State Department official told reporters on the condition of anonymity that the Twitter service was all the more important because the Iranian government had shut down websites, cell phones, and newspapers.

"One of the areas where people are able to get out the word is through Twitter," the official said. "They announced they were going to shut down their system for maintenance and we asked them not to."

Protestors in Iran on Monday used Twitter for battle cries and to spread word about clashes with police and hard-line supporters of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Massive crowds defied a ban

Messages posted on the micro-blogging service, some with links to pictures, streamed from Iran despite reported efforts by authorities there to block news of protests over Ahmadinejad's claim of having been fairly re-elected.

Pictures of wounded or dead people that senders claim were Iranian protestors ricocheted about Twitter and wound up posted at online photo-sharing websites such as Flickr as well as on YouTube.

A protestor was reportedly shot dead during clashes in Tehran as massive crowds of people defied a ban to stage a rally against the disputed re-election of Ahmadinejad.

The trouble flared after Ahmadinejad's defeated rival Mir Hossein Mousavi appeared in public for the first time since an election that has sharply divided the nation and triggered protests and rioting.

The official said he did not know who at the State Department called Twitter, but it was not Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.