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Mumbai via social media

Though I spent Thanksgiving on a plane of existence where the concept of “news” just didn’t make sense, I did occasionally check in with my own slice of Twitter, and saw an interesting mashup of I’m-too-stuffed-to-live posts and ongoing Mumbai coverage and commentary. The same loose coalition that supported online repsonses to the Southeast Asian Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina quickly set up “Mumbai Help” to coordinate information, including helpful phone numbers an information about the injured and deceased. CNN has an article about the social media response, noting that “social media sites like Twitter were inundated with a huge volume of messages.” The quote a Twitter user who said “Mumbai is not a city under attack as much as it is a social media experiment in action.” CNN notes a down side to the social media response, noting that “a vast number of the posts on Twitter amounted to unsubstantiated rumors and wild inaccuracies.”

As blogger Tim Mallon put it, “I started to see and (sic) ugly side to Twitter, far from being a crowd-sourced version of the news it was actually an incoherent, rumour-fueled mob operating in a mad echo chamber of tweets, re-tweets and re-re-tweets.

“During the hour or so I followed on Twitter there were wildly differing estimates of the numbers killed and injured – ranging up to 1,000.”

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.

In the next paragraph, CNN notes that most tweets “were sourced from mainstream media.”

On the other hand, I see a tweet from Mrinal Wadhwa that says “mainstream Indian media has been absolutely Irresposible during this whole episode.” I suspect that in some locales the best information available was crowdsourced, mostly via Twitter. You can see for yourself – relevant Twitter posts have the #mumbai hashtag and are viewable via Twitter search. (While I wrote that last sentence, there were 18 new posts.)

Comments

  1. Jon,

    CNN is absolutely right when they say the most tweets were “sourced from mainstream media”

    Why I think the mainstream India media has been very irresponsible during this episode is because even after repeated requests from authorities, TV channels like Times Now continue to cover (even right now) the NSG operation live revealing sensitive movement/positions of soldiers jeopardizing their lives and putting the whole operation at risk … hoping to gain some brownie points for “Live Coverage”

    While Times Now is one example other channels weren’t any better either over the course of the last 50 something hours .. I think the presence of the media and their repeated irresponsible actions made it much harder for the soldiers to do their job.

    Mrinal

  2. It’s interesting he cited how Twitter users were spreading the rumor that up to 1000 people had been injured. Perhaps that’s because this is the number the Times of India had plastered on its homepage for 24 hours. It’s not like Twitter users were making this stuff up…. They were simply passing along the bad info that MSM was feeding them.

  3. Right, and you would expect “wildly differing estimates” in reports from the scene during a crisis like this.

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