Tweeting the terror: How social media reacted to Mumbai

CNN.com reports that “social media appeared to come of age and signaled itself as a news-gathering force to be reckoned with” within minutes of the terrorist attacks on Mumbai, India.

With more than 6 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.”

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  • Olaf

    Want to know what people tweet about it ? See you on http://tweetag.com/#mumbai/

  • Real

    Who gives a what a bunch of people without real lives (social networkers, aka losers) think or do? We once had friends; we now interact with machines and people we know and care nothing about. It’s rather sad and pathetic, when you think about it. I think I’ll go discuss the events in India with my next door neighbor. I know he’s real.

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  • naomieve

    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!

  • Strudel

    Thanking for this statement, it is a huge problem in every kind of jouranlism when people are cited not correctly

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    Many Twitter users also sent pleas for blood donors to make their way to specific hospitals in Mumbai