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April 28, 2009

Twitter's weakness

Evgeny Morozov makes some good points about Twitter not being well suited to certain kinds of communication:

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.

First of all, I should point out from the very outset that anyone trying to make sense of how Twitter's "global brain" has reacted to the prospect of the swine flu pandemic is likely to get disappointed. The "swine flu" meme has so far that misinformed and panicking people armed with a platform to broadcast their fears are likely to produce only more fear, misinformation and panic.

His quoted examples of individual Twitter updates illustrate quite nicely how quickly it can turn into a game of Telephone (or Chinese Whispers to the Brits).

He also makes the following somewhat ironic statement: "In moments like this, one is tempted to lament the death of broadcasting, for it seems that the information from expert sources — government, doctors, and the like — should probably be prioritized over everything else and have a higher chance of being seen". As illustrated in the last two posts, the mainstream media have been doing their level best to hype up the panic levels and make the situation seem even more scary than it already is. Given that, it's just as well that fewer and fewer people take their "authoritative" news from those sources!

Posted by Nicholas at April 28, 2009 11:36 AM

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