Social Media And The Mumbai Terror Attacks

From CNN:

It was the day social media appeared to come of age and signaled itself as a news gathering force to be reckoned with.

The minute news broke of the terror attacks on Mumbai, social media sites like Twitter were inundated with a huge volume of messages.

With more than six million members worldwide, an estimated 80 messages or tweets, were being sent to Twitter.com via SMS every five seconds providing eyewitness accounts and updates.

Many Twitter users also sent pleas for blood donors to make their way to specific hospitals in Mumbai where doctors were faced with low stocks and rising casualties.

Others sent information about helplines and contact numbers for those who had friends and relatives caught up in the attacks. Tweeters were also mobilized to help with transcribing a list of the dead and injured from hospitals, which were quickly posted online.

As twitter user “naomieve” wrote: “Mumbai is not a city under attack as much as it is a social media experiment in action.”

Neha Viswanathan, a former regional editor for Southeast Asia and a volunteer at global voices told CNN: “Even before I actually heard of it on the news I saw stuff about this on Twitter.

“People were sending in messages about what they were hearing. There were at least five or six blogs from people who were trapped, or who were very close to what happened.”

One tweet from “Dupree” appeared to be coming from inside one of the hotels: “Mumbai terrorists are asking hotel reception for rooms of American citizens and holding them hostage on one floor.”

A group of Mumbai-based bloggers turned their Metroblog into a news wire service, while the blog MumbaiHelp offered to help users get through to their family and friends in the city, or to get information about them, and has had a number of successes.

Flickr also proved a useful source of haunting images chronicling the aftermath of the attacks. Journalist Vinukumar Ranganathan’s stream of photos were published by CNN and other major broadcasters.

A Google Map showing the key locations and buildings with links to news stories and eyewitness accounts, while CNN’s iReporters flooded the site with their videos and images of the terror attacks.

However, as is the case with such widespread dissemination of information, a vast number of the posts on Twitter amounted to unsubstantiated rumors and wild inaccuracies.

For example, a rumor that the Indian government was asking tweeters to stop live updates to avoid compromising it’s security efforts, was published and republished on the site.

– photo from Flickr

There is 1 comment

  1. This is an email I sent to CNN:

    I am the Twitter user naomieve referred to in the article. I would like to provide some context around the tweet quoted by CNN.com. The tweet Stephanie Busari refers to was NOT supposed to promote the social media aspects over the realities of what was happening to Mumbai.

    I actually expanded further on this tweet to argue why I was disappointed that the focus of many tweets regarding Mumbai was to congratulate social media and Twitter for being faster on the uptake than traditional media.

    I go on to expand on this in a discussion with Twitter user gyokusai where I say “#mumbai is a media experiment while mumbai is the city under attack that Twitter half the time forgets is bleeding”. That is – the Mumbai experience on Twitter is half genuine citizen journalism in action, and half self-congratulatory social media participants just happy to see a lot of publicity for Twitter regardless of the actual situation on the ground.

    It is precisely that mix of content which was disturbing me at the time. Unfortunately that is also the reality of citizen journalism, the Twitter experience, social media – the whole online experience of no quality control or central control over the message to be delivered. I still believe Twitter is a crucial tool for circulating information, from, among and to the people who are in that moment and hoping for a happy ending. But I was and still am upset that users are more interested in what the Mumbai horror meant for Twitter, than what it meant for humanity. Unfortunately, for all the Twitter fanatics may like to argue, the two are NOT identical!