It’s been really interesting to see how the terrorist attacks in India, Mumbai, have played out using social media – Twitter and blogging in particular. In fact, I am led to believe that social media even beat traditional media to the punch with the announcement of this news.
Some Twitter users used the micro-blogging platform to send out calls for blood donors to make their way to Mumbai hospital where existing and anticipated casualties were being sent. It was also used to get news out fast on those that had been injured and killed and information regarding support numbers for those that had friends and family involved in the attacks were also posted on Twitter.
Although this has been a great tool to get information out on what those on the ground were experiencing in instantaneous nature, it has also fuelled a rumour-mill. There are accounts of Twitter users publishing posts exaggerating the number of casualties and generally sensationalising the situation of the attacks.
CNN reported in the article I cite above: “What is clear that although Twitter remains a useful tool for mobilizing efforts and gaining eyewitness accounts during a disaster, the sourcing of most of the news cannot be trusted.”
People caught up in the Mumbai attacks, including the hotel hostages, were also using their blogs as a news medium to disseminate information on the situation on the ground in India. Bloggers posted their accounts of the tragedy when it unfolded, as it unfolded.
This is indeed a strong reminder of how powerful social media can be as a disseminator of news – whether this news is entirely factually correct or not. Social media has the power to beat traditional media to the punch due to its instantaneous nature and a force to be reckoned with. It’s an online tour de force for distributing instant information to the masses.
I’m interested to get your thoughts on this. Do you think social media played too large a part to play in telling the stories surrounding these tragic circumstances? Do you think it levels the playing field between traditional media and citizen journalists and social media? Feel free to contribute other parts of the discussion that are missing in this post.