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Twitter, NTT America hold off maintenance to keep Iran channel clear

June 15, 2009 |  7:02 pm
Iran-protest
Credit: Abedin Taherkenareh / EPA

For a service that limits users to 140 characters, Twitter is finding its influence growing worldwide. The San Francisco company Monday delayed a crucial maintenance operation to accommodate the high volume of information flowing about the explosive election protests in Iran.

People both inside and outside Iran have been sending short text messages about the violence and civil disobedience that has engulfed the nation's capital, Tehran, for the last two days. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has defended his reelection last week, but the protests have grown more intense.

In a blog post Monday afternoon, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone said his site's scheduled maintenance would be delayed from overnight -- daytime in Iran -- to 2 to 3 p.m. Pacific time Tuesday, which would be the middle of the night in Iran.

The work was "a critical network upgrade [that] must be performed to ensure continued operation of Twitter," Stone wrote. The servers that undergird the micromessaging site are run by NTT America, a division of Japanese telecommunications giant Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Co. 

Stone noted that NTT America recognized "the role Twitter is currently playing as an important communication tool in Iran" and was "taking a huge risk not just for Twitter but also the other services they support worldwide."

Twitter traffic about the situation in Iran has been dominating the service for the last several days, with topics such as IranElection, Tehran and Iranians among the most actively discussed on Twitter. News tidbits, photos and chatter about the protests have flowed around the world, becoming a key medium for news from the scene.

Twitter users worried that shutting down the service could cut off yet another information channel for those in Iran, where the government had reportedly blocked access to social media sites, such as YouTube and Facebook, in addition to cutting off mobile phone service.

-- David Sarno

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