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