Twitter: Not Just for the Masses Anymore

The world—and Twitter skeptics—saw a dramatic illustration of the microblogging service's usefulness in Iran last summer. Twitter provided an outlet for outsiders to understand what was going on in the country despite a brutal crackdown on media, and it was a useful tool for opposition protesters to organize and share information, evading government control.

If the Green Revolution showed how Twitter was a valuable political tool for the masses, perhaps the coup in Kyrgyzstan will show how it can be useful for leaders, too. Someone representing herself as Roza Otunbayeva, the leader of the opposition movement that took over the Kyrgyz government, is tweeting messages to the world and her followers in English and Russian (and something else, possibly Kyrgyz—can any readers help us out?). Twitter will helpfully translate Cyrillic Russian into English—as with Google Translate, some of the finer points of grammar are lost in translation, but you can get the gist. The account isn't verified, so it could be a pretender, but the content seems in line with what Otunabayeva has said elsewhere.

The content on her feed is a mix, from utilitarian announcements of press conferences to political polemics to exhortations. "The power [is] in the hands of national governments. [LIABLE] people appointed, they are already working on normalcy," she wrote Wednesday afternoon. The timing suggests Otunbayeva consciously adopted Twitter as an instrument of revolution: her first tweet was March 19, and about half of them have come in the last day. Her most recent English language pronouncement: "The situation in Bishkek is under control. Police and Armed Forces will Keep the peace tonight."

If that's the case, Otunbayeva might be the first leader to adopt Twitter in the service of a coup, but she's not the first world leader to get wise to its utility. President Obama started actively using his account in March, and the Kremlin announced just today that Russian president Dmitri Medvedev will get in on the act this summer. With upstarts like Otunbayeva on Twitter, an active account could be an important tool for exerting Russian influence in the ex-Soviet countries, 140 characters at a time.