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Social Media’s Role in Crisis and Misinformation
Posted on November 1st 2012
During devastating Hurricane Sandy, chaos enveloped the northeastern U.S. states. Through it all, people, government, and non-government agencies used social media to keep people informed. Twitter’s blog even featured a post on all the handles people could follow for up-to-date information. After the storm passed and power was restored, social media again played an important role is maintaining order and informing the public of the damages. In New York City, the transit system, which regularly has over 5 million commuters a day, was severely damaged, airports were underwater, and the lower half of Manhattan had no power. In New Jersey, Atlantic City was drowned and parts of it were literally washed away. MTA Kept Commuters Informed:
After Mayor Bloomberg’s declaration of transit restrictions, more details were released:
Effective immediately, all taxis, liveries, black cars and other TLC-licensed vehicles are exempt from HOV restrictions on bridges.— NYC Mayor's Office (@NYCMayorsOffice) November 1, 2012
Most Importantly, during the recovery, locations for food and water were shared:
Need food and water in Coney Island? Go to West 25th Street and Surf Avenue starting at 3 PM. #Sandy— NYC Mayor's Office (@NYCMayorsOffice) November 1, 2012
And, as conditions were still unsafe, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie cancelled Halloween for the public’s safety:
Its just not safe yet to be out trick-or- treating tonight, so Halloween has officially been postponed until Monday.— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) October 31, 2012
Despite the best efforts of the people affected by the storm and the agencies to share factual and potentially life-saving information, there were a few users who attempted to take advantage of social media’s anonymity and immediacy in the time of crisis. As reported by Jack Steuf, @ComfortablySmug was discovered to be spreading misinformation about the situation in New York, such as untrue information about public services and the agencies that manage them. Also floating around on the web were dozens of fake photos of the storm’s effects. Although some people will try to take advantage of the public in times of crisis, for the most part the storm’s chaos and the recovery are being managed well.
Throughout the past week, social media was literally at the center of the storm, empowering those in real danger to share their stories and find help and other resources like shelter, power, food and water. That is the power of the social web! The hashtag #Sandy has united all tweets about the storms and the recovery from the crisis; you can continue to follow the hashtag to track new developments related to the storm.