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Twitter and natural disasters
Date:4/15/2011

Adam Acar and Yuya Muraki of the Kobe City University of Foreign Studies surveyed and questioned Twitter users and tracked updates from people in the disaster-struck area on the social media site two weeks after the Tohoku earthquake and devastating tsunami of March 11. They hoped to determine what benefits such a system can bring to people involved in a disaster and to those hoping to hear news.

The researchers found that people in directly affected areas tended to tweet about their unsafe and uncertain situation while people in remote areas posted messages to let their followers know that they are safe. Worryingly, they also found numerous unreliable "retweets" (RTs), where users of the service repeated inaccurate information and that this was one of the biggest information-related problems facing those involved. However, the subjects in the study recommended that Twitter communication could be improved if official hashtags were announced during disasters and the number of retweets for a given hashtag could be limited to avoid the wider spread of disinformation.

The 9.0-scale earthquake that hit Japan on March 11 at 2:45 PM (local time) was the biggest quake in Japan's history and the 5th biggest recorded across the globe. The subsequent tsunamis caused by the tremors caused additional devastation across three coastal prefectures, wiped two towns off the map, and claimed thousands of lives and displaced more than half a million people. At the time, members of the media reported that Twitter was the only functioning communication tool immediately after the earthquake.

Writing in the International Journal of Web Based Communities, the team explains how recently there has been growing interest in the use of social media during disasters as a communications and news dissemination tool. "A wide range of studies suggest that information sharing networks, such as twitter, can be very useful in times of crisis by quickly and effectiv
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Contact: Adam Acar
adam.acar@gmail.com
81-787-948-121
Inderscience Publishers
Source:Eurekalert

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