Thinking Before you Tweet: The Importance of Journalistic Integrity in Crisis-Related Social Media Broadcast
Just an hour after phone lines went down during Japan’s recent tsunami and quake, tweets coming from Tokyo topped 1,200 per minute. A day later more than 9,000 quake-related videos and 7,000 tsunami-related videos were uploaded to YouTube, and over 7,000 records were entered into Google’s "Person Finder". A message from The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo urging U.S. citizens in Japan “to continue efforts to be in contact with loved one(s) using SMS texting and other social media” makes 2 things very clear:
1) Social media has become a powerful communication tool in times of crisis and;
2) Most of that power lies in the hands of average camera phone wielding tweet-happy citizens like you and me.
What are the implications of such an increase in individual influence? I think Spiderman said it best in the line, “With great power comes great responsibility.” When an innocent mouse click can cause information to spread like wildfire, the thoughtfulness and journalistic integrity of everyday citizens is of paramount importance. In a recent article about responsible social media broadcasting, Mashable’s Peter Shankman advises, “Report what you know, avoid what you don’t” and “Think before you share”. We could all do to heed this sage advice; the future of the social web as a credible news source, and thus its beneficial impact in times of crisis is at stake.