Twitter and the source of real-time news – is it the new emergency broadcast system?

The Washington Post’s Outlook section mentioned that twitter has become the first source of news ahead of the major networks and news organizations. While this is certainly true for many public events, such as the Boston Marathon bombing events, its probably more likely that twitter is the first source of news for certain news area segments. Public events and events where smartphones can operate such as public spaces or urban settings, twitter can be the first to report issues because the witnesses or even the participants can self-report. For other types of news, such as corporate internal news, certain types of business news and government news, finding stories and issues can take time and deeper digging–activities that are not so heavily aligned with twitter’s instant communication model.

Of course, with the power to be real-time comes the responsibility to not use it for fraudulent purposes. Twitter puts significant “power” into the hands of the individual and power can be used for reporting problems and issues but it can also be used to amplify untruths or fraudulent information. All communication channels have this balance to some degree. With Twitter, the amplification effect and balance must be managed much more closely.

Although not everyone has a smartphone or receives twitter alerts many companies and government groups do monitor twitter, in essence, it is now a new socially driven, emergency broadcast system.

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