UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Twitter Saves Lives! The Backlash Must be Due

Posted by Brian Kelly on 9 May 2008

The front page of yesterday’s Technology Guardian (which I still normally refer to as the Online Guardian) had a very positive article on Making The Most Of Twitter which opened with:

An American student is arrested in Egypt, and manages to send a brief text with a single word – “ARRESTED” – which is picked up around the world, and leads quickly to his release, helped by a lawyer hired by his university back in the US. In Britain, the prime minister’s office decides people should be able to find out what their premier is doing; as of today, more than 2,000 people do. …People fleeing from fires in California say where they are’ that proves more useful and timely than official government information.

The common factor? Twitter, the free (at present) service which lets you send a 140-character message, or “tweet”, to a site where anyone can read it

Such views reflect those of Martin Weller who, in a post on Turning to Twitter in a crisis related a story on Jim Groom’s blog which described:

how a group of people at a presentation at the University of Richmond were suddenly told to turn off the lights and be quiet as a suspicious character with a gun had been spotted on campus. After the initial moment of fright, he relates how a number of them turned to Twitter, and how this turned out to be both soothing and useful

And I’ve remembered that last week a tweet from Josie Fraser pointed to a CNN article which was featured in the opening sentence of the Guardian article (where Josie leads, the Guardian follows!).

A great time for those early adopters of Twitter, with our commitment to initially puzzled colleagues now being vindicated in the mass media one might thing. It’s perhaps reminiscent of the excitement we felt in May 1997, perhaps the last time we felt the people were, at last, being empowered. But why do I feel that the dreaded Boris moment is lurking around the corner?

But what can we expect in the backlash. I suspect journalist have already been asked to dig for a story on the negative side of Twitter. I think we can expect the CEO of a large company (other head of the CBI would be even better) to provide figures on the amount of productivty lost due to Twitter. And, on a personal level, expect the tabloids to cover stories of the teenager who tweeted that their parents were away, and found a large horde descending on the place and vandalising the home (and I know that story was first used with MySpace as the guilty service – but we should expect such stories to be endlessly recycled).

Has anyone spotted the backlash in the press yet? And what other stories can we expect?

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6 Responses to “Twitter Saves Lives! The Backlash Must be Due”

  1. Martin said

    The one where someone gets the sack/refused entry to college/has career ruined because they inappropriately tweet something.
    Although these dramatic stories are interesting, they aren’t the real benefit of Twitter – that’s in it’s everyday use. What they highlight is that the person’s network is what they turn to in a crisis.

  2. I can imagine Twitter being a really effective tool for stalking or even burgling… I can see a story in relation to that! I am still intrigued and baffled at the level of personal information twittered (or is it tweeted?!).

    As someone who neeeded to be convinced it was ‘useful’ I am a fan now… I wouldn’t have known about the EduServ symposium yesterday if it wasn’t for Twitter and it’s great for getting answers to questions quickly!

  3. David Williams said

    Interestingly, if you do follow the downingstreet twitter, they follow you. Not sure where I stand on that.

  4. […] >> A great time for those early adopters of Twitter, with our commitment to initially puzzled colleagues now being vindicated in the mass media one might thing. It’s perhaps reminiscent of the excitement we felt in May 1997, perhaps the last time we felt the people were, at last, being empowered. But why do I feel that the dreaded Boris moment is lurking around the corner? But what can we expect in the backlash. I suspect journalist have already been asked to dig for a story on the negative side of Twitter. I think we can expect the CEO of a large company (other head of the CBI would be even better) to provide figures on the amount of productivity lost due to Twitter. ukwebfocus.wordpress.com […]

  5. This blog post was written in 2008. A tweet from @MaxMckeown comments:

    Prescient article from 2008 -> “Twitter Saves Lives! Backlash due.” http://t.co/r8tIg1b #socialmedia #moralpanic #riots

    Indeed, as can be seen from the post entitled “Mail blames Twitter for Tottenham riots“.

  6. […] the CBI would be even better) to provide figures on the amount of productivity lost due to Twitter. ukwebfocus.wordpress.com>> I think there's a lot more to say about the service and its sociocultural significance, so […]

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