One day after the tragic terrorist attacks started in Mumbai, India, media outlets were tapping social media sites for their reports.
On the Wired magazine blog, Danger Room, Noah Schachtman collected the several Twitter feeds, Flickr photo collections, blogs, Wikipedia page (“shockingly current,” he described) and Google maps all about the attacks.
“Hospital update. Shots still being fired. Also Metro cinema next door,” said a Twitter user amid the attack. “Blood needed at JJ hospital,” added another Twitter user. (These are courtesy of Schachtman’s blog.)
None of it was lost on larger media, like The New York Times, which celebrated these “citizen journalists” for helping report the news:
At the peak of the violence, more than one message per second with the word “Mumbai” in it was being posted onto Twitter, a short-message service that has evolved from an oddity to a full-fledged news platform in just two years.
Those descriptions and others on Web sites and photo-sharing sites served as a chaotic but critically important link among people across the world—whether they be Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn tracking the fate of a rabbi held hostage at the Nariman House or students in Britain with loved ones back in India or people hanging on every twist and turn in the standoff while visiting relatives for Thanksgiving dinner.
Twitter, a Web site that lets people post updates 140 characters at a time, has served news outlets and companies during crisis. The Red Cross, for instance, used Twitter when communicating about Hurricane Ike, according to a recent Ragan.com article. The article said:
A company could set up a Twitter account and a message protocol for different situations that include emergencies. If all employees “follow” this Twitter account, they will receive a text message on their devices alerting them to the emergency.
For example … [new media strategist Tracy Viselli at QuinStreet Media explained] … “if there is a building fire during the morning commute, thousands of employees could be messaged at once not to come to the office until further notice.
But before we run off high-fiving about the wonders of Twitter for crisis communications, let’s also consider the worthless, angry and insulting Twitter messages that erupted during the attacks.
In the same Twitter feed, The Times and Schachtman use to illustrate the power of Web 2.0, people are spouting anger and hate.
“If you/we want to fight with Terrorism, We need to get rid of these Muslims,” one Twitter user wrote. Added another, “dont use such kind of words, Muslim have been died. Are you BJP p***sy licker? You seem to be any political son.”
If social media is what we want, it appears we have to take the good with the hateful and angry.