Mumbai terror: when social media backfired

Today ‘s been a sad day for Mumbai, its people, and the rest of the world. A sudden terrorist attack mounted upon the never-sleep city awoke Mumbai’s innocent citizens. As of this writing, 101 people have been killed and 314 wounded, according to CNN. I strongly encourage you to read this blog:

http://baxishweta.blogspot.com/2008/11/mumbai-under-terror-attack.html

or check out the hundred blogs on Google Blog Search

to fully understand what has been going on in Mumbai. Hopefully everything will be over soon and peace will return to the city. What would it be like if Ho Chi Minh City were under such an attack? We’d better pray for this catastrophe not to happen.

I learnt about this tragedy this morning via Twitter. Then John and Thomas said it would not be wise for Tweeters to keep tweeting about it because the terrorists were monitoring #mumbai on Twitter Search. I came to realize that while twitter search has become the best monitoring tool on the Internet, it should ban certain keywords at certain times.

I mean, it is a great way to keep in touch with what’s going on around the world, be the first to know about it, even before newspapers and TV stations. But is it worth it if we enjoy the luxury of seeing the mishaps of others Live and at the same time help the terrorists know what the police are doing? Telling people to stop tweeting is not enough. Twitter should have banned the tweets that were related to Mumbai at that time to make sure that nothing sensitive got known by the attackers. There are always people who break the rules (like me, but not in this case, though).

And certainly there are others who may take advantage of such occasions for their self-interests.

What if they record the scene of the police trying to free the hostages and live stream it via the Internet?

What if somebody is live blogging about the same scene?

What if someone else is live updating their social network statuses as the police move?

There’re all sort of possibilities that turn social media into our own enemies. We’re shooting ourselves on the feet.

Are we prepared? No, we aren’t. It’s time service providers take it seriously and implement an emergency policy which prohibits people from misusing social media tools to benefit the mindless assassins. And it’s time for Twitter to respond more responsibly to the situation by terminating certain keywords if that is the case.

Not being able to see what’s happening? Try to be cool with that. You’d rather hear that people’s lives are saved at the end of the day than seeing them dying tweet after tweet.

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3 Responses to Mumbai terror: when social media backfired

  1. I have to say, I disagree completely about the following:

    “I came to realize that while twitter search has become the best monitoring tool on the Internet, it should ban certain keywords at certain times.”

    First, I don’t see what good you can do by censoring some keywords. It’s words not guns

    Second, the evil guy are monitoring the internet, the “good ones” too and everyone in between. That’s the nature of the thing, the internet is neutral and that’s pretty much the best thing it happened to fight against authoritarian regimes

    Finally, censorship is censorship, the people who are censoring are the ones who decide, if you agree with the censors then it is ok, if you think otherwise then you are a victim. Will you let people decide for you ?

    Better let the information flow and let people decide what is evil or not. Information save lifes but gun kills…

  2. This is the first post since yesterday that I’ve come across which isn’t glorifying social media but instead doing the opposite. Its good to see a different opinion.

    While I share your concerns I don’t think it will be right to call it a backfire unless some thing concrete comes out confirming the things you mentioned.

    But I also don’t agree that information censorship should be left to people because say whatever humans are after all humans and thus bound to make mistakes which can prove fatal.

  3. AnhHung says:

    For a moment I forgot about what I’d been doing: blogging, tweeting, working on my project, and all that stuff.

    Net neutrality, Freedom and Openness, aren’t they what we’re striving to come by?

    You are right. Bad people will just take advantage of whatever do bad things.

    @david: i see your points. but for now, i refrain myself from talking about politics because it’s out of the question. sad but true. that’s the world that we live in, and it cannot be changed in one day.

    @mayank: thanks for visiting this blog. writing this was a hard thing to do because it became confusing in the end. but anyway, my best wishes for the people.

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