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As Rafsanjani sparks new protests in Iran, one popular blogger is mysteriously silent

By Matthew Shaer / July 17, 2009

This photo, taken by an individual not employed by the Associated Press and obtained by the AP outside Iran, shows two opposition demonstrators flashing victory sign during a protest in Tehran, Iran on Friday. The violence today again sent tremors through the blogosphere – but the voice of one popular Twitter user, persiankiwi, was mysteriously quiet.

Associated Press

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In the days after the June 12 presidential election in Iran, hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets, spurred onat least in part – by messages exchanged on a range of social networks, from Facebook to MySpace. Among the most popular was persiankiwi, a Twitter user purportedly located in Iran. Such was his or her clout that one outlet dubbed persiankiwi "the world's most important journalist."

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At a time when many Western journalists were barred from leaving their hotel rooms – or forbidden from entering the country at all – persiankiwi appeared to have a front-row seat to the carnage. On June 24, he or she posted the following updates to Twitter:

• saw 7/8 militia beating one woman with baton on ground - she had no defense nothing - #Iranelection sure that she is dead
• they were waiting for us - they all have guns and riot uniforms - it was like a mouse trap - ppl being shot like animals
• I see many ppl with broken arms/legs/heads - blood everywhere - pepper gas like war
• just in from Baharestan Sq - situation today is terrible - they beat the ppls like animals

Alongside Neda Soltan, a woman apparently shot dead by a basiji militiaman on the streets of Tehran, persiankiwi became a symbol of a new uprising – one that derived its power from a sprawling network of young protesters.

As BNO’s Michael van Poppel discovered, by the end of June, CNN.com was even picking up persiankiwi's tweets, and weaving them into news stories posted on the site. (CNN did this without attributing the accounts to persiankiwi, or indicating that the information came from Twitter; a spokesman for the network later apologized.)

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