Some have already dubbed the protests in Iran to be the "Twitter Revolution." 

Certainly the political unrest in Iran has demonstrated as never before the power and influence of social media.

How big has the subject been in the social media conversation in recent days and what role does the discussion appear to be playing?

The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism took a special look this week at the role of Twitter and other social media to find out in an expanded version of the weekly New Media Index.

From blogs to "tweets" to personal Web pages, the topic dominated the online conversation far more than in the mainstream media as users passed along news, supported the protestors and shared ideas on how to use communication technology most effectively.

In addition to the blogs and social media regularly monitored, PEJ for the week of June 15-19 examined the links being posted (or tweeted) according to the tracking site Tweetmeme. In much the same way that Icerocket and Technorati track links from blogs and other types of social media, Tweetmeme tracks the "hottest" links on Twitter.

And last week, fully 98% of the links from Twitter were about Iran. The tweets took on multiple functions, from spreading unfiltered, albeit often unverified, news around the world to organizing support for those involved in the struggle.

As is the case in many conflicts, the "fog of war" made verifying the quality and sources of information difficult last week. Alongside praises over Twitter’s role, some analysts downplayed the site as an organizing tool and there was speculation that tweets purportedly from protestors may have been part of a disinformation campaign. While the original source and location of Twitter links in this analysis is often unclear, the message of these tweets clearly reflects an online activism fostered by new technology. 

Among blogs and social media, the main universe of the NMI, the topic accounted for 63% of last week’s links. That is the most attention that any single story received in a particular week in the blogosphere since mid-March when 65% of the week’s links were about the outrage over the AIG bonuses. (No other story generated more than 6% of last week’s links from bloggers.)

The conversation online, in both blogs posts and tweets, amplified a trend PEJ has noticed in social media. It is not just about expressing one’s opinion or even passing along information. It is also about getting actively involved.

In the traditional press, the Iranian situation also led the agenda, though to a much lesser extent. About a quarter (28%) of last week’s newshole was devoted to the subject according to PEJ’s News Coverage Index. The other top stories were the economic crisis, debates over health care reform, concern over North Korea’s missile program and wide-ranging coverage about the Obama administration.

The Twitter Revolution?

For many in the mainstream press, Twitter became a symbol of a new kind of activism that can occur online.  

In the thousands of tweets analyzed about Iran last week, the emphasis shifted as the story evolved and the potential of social media became more apparent.  

Initially, most of the Twitter traffic included links about the events themselves, a few of which claimed to be from those witnessing events first-hand.

On Monday, June 15, the most linked-to page was a picture of thousands of protestors in Tehran accompanied by a number of Twitter-like comments. Among the supportive statements were ones such as "Its about time. Good luk iranian people. Long time coming"* and "Let their voices be heard! PEACEFULLY!"

Other users linked to a story about how Iranian activists were using Twitter as a tool for mobilization and for providing accounts of events as they were happening.

Later in the week, the top tweeted stories focused more on how users could organize and take action online.

On Tuesday, June 16, the most linked-to page was from a British blogger named Esko Reinikainen who published a "Cyberwar guide for beginners." Among his recommendations were ways that people could help bloggers who were posting from within Iran. "Do NOT publicise proxy IP’s over twitter," he advised along with "Help cover the bloggers: change your twitter settings so that your location is TEHRAN and your time zone is GMT +3.30."

On Wednesday, June 17, one of the most linked-to pages was a blog post by Ben Parr at which described how the U.S. State Department had asked Twitter to refrain from performing maintenance on its servers so as to allow the flow of information coming to and from inside Iran.

Another popular tweet was to a