Twitter Proves Mettle in Sandy, Despite Hoaxes

Social Media Provides Two-Way Information Lifeline in Crisis

Staying in Touch: As Sandy struck, many found smart phones and social media to be their information lifelines.
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Staying in Touch: As Sandy struck, many found smart phones and social media to be their information lifelines.

By Reuters

Published October 31, 2012.
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On Tuesday, New York City Councilman Peter F. Vallone Jr. appeared to threaten Tripathi with prosecution when he tweeted that he hoped Tripathi was “less smug and comfortable cuz I’m talking to Cy,” presumably referring to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.

For its part, Twitter said that it would not have considered suspending the account unless it received a request from a law enforcement agency.

“We don’t moderate content, and we certainly don’t want to be in a position of deciding what speech is OK and what speech is not,” said Horwitz, Twitter’s spokeswoman.

But Ben Smith, the editor at Buzzfeed, which outed Tripathi, said Twitter’s credibility would not be affected by rumormongers because netizens often self-correct and identify falsehoods.

“They used to say a lie will travel halfway around the world before the truth puts its shoes on, but in the Twitter world, that’s not true anymore,” Smith said. “The lies get slapped down really fast.”

For Smith, the ability to disseminate information via Twitter and Facebook on Monday night became perhaps even more important than his Web publication, which enjoyed one of its better nights in readership but went dark when the blackout crippled the site’s servers in downtown Manhattan.

Buzzfeed’s staff quickly began publishing on Tumblr instead, and Smith personally took over Buzzfeed’s Twitter account to stay in the thick of the conversation.

“Our view of the world is that social distribution is the key thing,” Smith said. “We’re in the business of creating content that people want to share, more than the business of maintaining a website.”


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