Armed with Twitter: Weapon of Anarchy

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One thing certain about Twitter is that it brings an unappealing appearance to first time visitors. You often hear why in the world would someone go for a service that allows sending 140-character updates to your “followers”? Good question but before getting into the conclusion, let’s do some practical research about the ‘twitter effect’.

Considering the bloggers, who appear to imitate as mainstream media for breaking news, the competition to post the news first is intense. Twitter is the best place for breaking news.

While the Internet and online technologies have changed the world of media along many dimensions, the important point still stands on how the online world has changed the old cycle. For example, news used to be broken on TV and radio channels in the past, and aggrandised to mass audience through newspapers. It added life to news bulletins with updates and discussed again in talk shows.

Today, Twitter is having the biggest impact on the ways how media uses to work and especially on the news cycle, by being the first media to break news quite often, elaborate stories that have appeared in boring and traditional formats and in offering a forum to discuss traditional news outlets coverage. Twitter for sure has its own class.

Kate, a twitter user and blogger says her twitter screen came alive with rumours of Amy Winehouse’s death. No one knew at that moment if it’s true, but this screen grab of people’s twitter feed pretty much sums up the rumour.

“I straight away went to websites of CNN, BBC, Guardian and then ABC for more updates on her death rumours but could only find a placeholder news story with insignificant information. I decided to return to Twitter only to find first hand accounts of what had happened and immediate reaction from a variety of people,” she explained. For her some time, Twitter has been a foremost source of breaking news. Added by the blogger.

Recalling another incident, Kate told that she first heard about Oslo Bombing via Twitter too and spent a terrified hour while stuck on train between London and Bath waiting to hear from her cousin and uncle, who were in Oslo on holiday. “In the end it was via Twitter that my cousin updated that they were safe and sound,” she added.

Twitter is way better than the other traditional news outlets for fast-moving stories.According to Journalism and Media Research Centre (JMRC), BBC and The Guardian failed to report Oslo bombings for about fifteen minutes, while Twitter broke the news with limited information about the incident within five minutes.

Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project revealed that when Michael Jackson died, the traditional news wasn’t saying he was dead while Twitter was saying he was.

Twitter has gone so deep that even doctors have started using Twitter to update their patients about office hours. The service is already used by several companies including online shoe retailer Zappos.com. Tony Hsieh, chief executive Zappos, picked up the trend by launching his own Twitter account, and continues updating his 14,000 followers from all over the world.

While some companies are using twitter only to be in contact with their employees, others are using the service to reach their customers. Comcast is a good example. Frank Eliason, director of digital care, resolves customer-service related issues a day over one status update on Twitter.

But not everything is accurate on twitter as it looks like. Network sociologists are worried about the negative use of Twitter that can be used as a platform to manipulate people on a larger scale.

Social media researchers emphasise that Twitter can be a hub for misinformation in near future. It was used to spread rumours and assemble vandals on the second and third night of rioting in London. Unfortunately, twitter can become a medium of spreading misinformation faster than any other news medium.

Phoney information was spread from the field during the wildfires in the United States, uprising in Egypt, floods in Australia and during different election campaigns and protests.

Researchers predict that social media platforms, specially Twitter, will be a major medium that will be used to spread and leak confidential information like what happened after the Osama Bin Ladin’s death when names of US Special Forces who had killed him via Twitter. It did nothing but putting the life of Special Force members in jeopardy.

On the 10th anniversary of 9/11 attacks, National Broadcasting Company (NBC) News Twitter account got hacked and hackers started fake tweets regarding another 9/11 attacks taking place right now. “Breaking News! Ground Zero has just been attacked” was one of the tweets on NBC tweet feed.

Last but not the least, one can not deny concerns raised by network sociologists and media researchers about Twitter. As the information war is gearing up, the chances of misinforming millions of people is high. That may result as anarchy, fear and hate.

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