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Haiti Earthquake News Comes From Social Media

When a 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti on Tuesday, the country was devastated.  Poor construction standards have wiped out the capital city of Port-Au-Prince populated by two million souls.  For those who survived, wiped out communications left few choices to spread the word or even tell a loved one overseas they were still all right.

For the second time in the last 18 months, Twitter has served as a back up communication infrastructure to reach out.  The first instance was man-made when Iran’s government blocked texts and Internet sites and Twitter was the only means left.  This time Twitter faced nature and seems to be winning.

When I first heard of the catastrophe last night, Twitter was mentioned as one of the only means of communication left open to the survivors.  Today that statement appears to be quite true.  CNN is reporting,

Web surfers looking for information on the earthquake in Haiti scoured the White House’s blog, the Red Cross’ site and a handful of Twitter feeds, according to Internet traffic data gathered Wednesday by CNN.

As I remember, major earthquakes in the nineties drove cell phone purchases because they typically work after the disaster.  Since the advent of smart-phones, Twitter has assumed this role because of its wider audience reach.  News organizations are following the tweets and blogs of people directly affected by the disaster that are able to share their plight.

Like the widespread cell phone adoption a decade ago, it seems widespread Twitter adoption is just a matter of time.  I wrote about Twitter as a tool for citizen governance a few days ago.  Now it’s apparent Twitter is a viable emergency communication service.  I’m not sure why this service works when others are blocked or damaged, but it seems to be the right way to go.  Perhaps it makes sense for everyone to have a Twitter account, “just in case.”  We pay for cellular phones for the same reason.  Twitter is free!

My thoughts and prayers are with the citizens of Haiti and I hope the horrifying estimated casualty toll turns out to be much lower.  If you have the resources to help, please do.  The fact a major relief site Yele Haiti was down due to high traffic suggests to me Americans are doing the right thing.  Thank you.

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