Monday, April 27, 2009

Twitter as an Incubator of Swine Flu Misinformation


xkcd

Randall Munroe is not that far off... Foreign Policy's net.effect blog is one of many blogs with a story about this:
Swine flu: Twitter's power to misinform

Sat, 04/25/2009 - 5:56pm

Who knew that swine flu could also infect Twitter? Yet this is what appears to have happened in the last 24 hours, with thousands of Twitter users turning to their favorite service to query each other about this nascent and potentially lethal threat as well as to share news and latest developments from Mexico, Texas, Kansas and New York (you can check most recent Twitter updates on the subject by searching for “swine flu” and “swineflu”). And despite all the recent Twitter-enthusiasm about this platform's unique power to alert millions of people in decentralized and previously unavailable ways, there are quite a few reasons to be concerned about Twitter's role in facilitating an unnecessary global panic about swine flu.

. . .

However, in the context of a global pandemic – where media networks are doing their best to spice up an already serious threat – having millions of people wrap up all their fears into 140 characters and blurt them out in the public might have some dangerous consequences, networked panic being one of them. If you think that my concerns about context are overblown, here are just a few status updates from random Twitter users that would barely make you calmer (or more informed) about what's going on:

I'm concerned about the swine flu outbreak in us and mexico could it be germ warfare? (link)

In the pandemic Spanish Flu of 1918-19, my Grandfather said bodies were piled like wood in our local town....SWINE FLU = DANGER (link)

Good grief this swine flu thing is getting serious. 8/9 specimens tested were prelim positive in NYC. so that's Tx, Mexico and now Nyc. (link)

Short Ribs! How long before the Swine Flu hysteria crashes the pork market? 2 hours? 3? (link)

be careful of the swine flu!!!! (may lead to global epidemic) Outbreak in Mexico. 62 deaths so far!! Don't eat pork from Mexico!! (link)

Swine flu? Wow. All that pork infecting people....beef and chicken have always been meats of choice (link)

SIMPLE CURE FOR THE NEW BHS (BIRD/HUMAN/SWINE FLU) AS REPORTED ON TV LAST NIGHT IS THE DRUG TAMIFLU....ALREADY A PRESCRIPTION ON THE MARKET (link)

Be careful...Swine Flu is not only in Mexico now. 8 cases in the States. Pig = Don't eat (link)

Don't follow that crowd, follow @CDCEmergency instead:
Swine flu - 40 confirmed cases. New York count now at 28. http://bit.ly/KO5pA20 confirmed cases of swine flu in U.S. 1 hospitalized. All have fully recovered. http://bit.ly/uycgL #swineflu
about 20 hours ago from web

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