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For political activists, Twitter packs a vital punch

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From the Arab Spring uprisings to the MeToo movement in which women spoke up about sexual assaults, Twitter has proven itself a formidable ally for political activists and opposition groups, one whose reach and impact would be difficult to replace.Other social media platforms may have more users, but the network now owned by the billionaire Elon Musk dominates the global conversation -- even as Twitter's future is being called into doubt."Twitter is clearly very influential in getting the media and officials to pay attention.

So it has a very special and unique place in that way," said Mahsa Alimardani, a senior researcher at the human rights NGO Article 19.During the anti-government protests that have rocked Iran in recent months, tweets are "helping Iranians bear witness to the pain and struggles of their fellow countrymen, helping the world bear witness to what's happening," she told AFP.Especially in countries that have clamped down on independent journalism or foreign correspondents, Twitter provides a crucial lifeline to the outside world.This week, posts from inside the Chinese iPhone factory operated by Foxconn showed workers rebelling against a total Covid lockdown, shattering the government's attempts to portray a veneer of calm amid its draconian efforts to contain the virus."It's very important to get information out to the international media but also to document human rights violations and atrocities," said Marcus Michaelsen, a researcher specialised in digital activism under authoritarian regimes.- 'Protest identity' -Twitter had some 237 million daily users at end-June, well below the nearly two billion Facebook or one billion TikTok users.But its pithy, at-a-glance format allows the network to punch far

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