Twitter has demonstrated its awesome power of its network in the ugliest of circumstances; the massacre in Mumbai has brought the networking, information sharing website right to the forefront of news gathering as the tragedy was played out on millions of people’s mobile phones and inboxes second by second.
CNN reported Twitter user “naomieve”’s response to the outpouring of information: “Mumbai is not a city under attack as much as it is a social media experiment in action.”
This is correct to an extent – certainly, news of the attack spread via Twitter far quicker than the old media could report on it, to the extent that immediate reports were dictated by the often conflicting information that was pouring out of Mumbai, twitted, re-twitted and passed around the world as fast as the eye can blink. But that soon gave way to traditional media headlines being recycled.
The astonishing speed and multiplicity of Twitter is also its weakness – the amount of re-twitted reports mean that it is impossible to tell what is an eyewitness account from a hotel and what is rumour or even mean-minded invention.
It is worth bearing in mind that it is a tool as useful to the terrorists as it is to anyone and to remember, as the old Second World War posters instructed, that “careless talk costs lives”. Twitter is an exciting tool and it’s now very much in the spotlight, at the cutting edge of communications. All that remains now is for all of us, from commentators to people in desperate situations such as those faced in Mumbai, to use it responsibly.
To read the full story from CNN click here.