Internet users moved by Haitian crisis
Jan 14, 2010, 12:08 GMT
Washington - Social-networking sites were flooded Wednesday with outpourings of sympathy, calls for help, and first-hand reports of the devastation caused by the Haitian earthquake.
On Twitter, people from around the world logged on to express emotions, provide links to sites where donations are accepted and give snippets of the latest news and word from the quake-torn region. 'Tweets' from Twitter users flashed by on Google's real-time Twitter search at a rate faster than one per second.
'No matter what your nationality or religion, everyone needs to pray for the people of Haiti,' tweeted GypsysMusic.
That note was followed quickly by dozens of others expressing intentions to donate and encouraging others to join in providing aid to relief organizations.
Multiple users almost simultaneously tweeted the instructions for how to donate money to the Red Cross via text message. Those instructions were re-tweeted by countless others, potentially reaching millions of Twitter followers.
Soon thereafter, jubilant tweets appeared pointing to a news story confirming that the Red Cross had raised more than 800,000 dollars for Haiti through a text message campaign.
Care2, the social-networking site designed to connect activists around the world, provided front-page coverage of the tragedy, with links allowing users to post messages of support to humanitarian aid workers and details about how to contact and donate to organizations providing relief, including the American Red Cross, CARE, Catholic Relief Services, Doctors without Borders, Mercy Corps and others.
Members of the site likewise posted instructions on how to provide aid for other members to read.
On Delicious.com, the web's largest social bookmarking site, links to background information about Haiti and news stories about how to help the victims dominated the front page.
Even social-networking sites not normally devoted to current events were abuzz with concern and pleas for solidarity. Gaia online, one of the Internet's largest general discussion boards frequented mostly by teens, quickly had dozens of threads about Haiti with hundreds of responses.
'Watch the news,' implored one Gaia user, Miss Crimson. 'They're telling people how they can help. Fundraisers, the Red Cross and churches are pitching in.'
That message was quickly followed by another from wtf corbin, saying: 'I donated ... 300 dollars.'
Many social-networking users were appalled, however, at the amount of misinformation being disseminated. Erroneous reports of UPS offering free shipping to Haiti were quickly debunked, and dire warnings rang out from Twitter users about dozens of scams being perpetrated in an attempt to exploit the tragedy.
'Fraud alert!' wrote Twitter user tawandah, followed quickly by tweets pointing to news stories about brazen scam artists.
By the evening, Internet scams were so widespread that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation issued an official alert on its Cyber Investigations website.
'The FBI today reminds internet users who receive appeals to donate money in the aftermath of Tuesday's earthquake in Haiti to apply a critical eye and do their due diligence before responding to those requests,' the FBI urged.
A link was provided that allowed visitors to report a suspected scan related to the Haitian disaster.
Those who wanted to follow up-to-the-minute happenings in Haiti often turned to Twitter over the major news organizations, which were still scrambling to get journalist into the Caribbean country. Many news organizations, in fact, were posting on Twitter in an attempt to find users willing to share pictures or video from Haiti.
Such images or first-hand accounts were hard to come by, but they could be found on Twitter. On TwitPic, a site that allows photo sharing on Twitter, LisandroSuero (http://twitpic.com/xx44y) posted multiple photographs depicting the damage the earthquake caused.
Other Twitter users recounted in words the horrors of the day.
User troylivesay (http://twitter.com/troylivesay) wrote: 'Covered in dust and debris ... we saw a few bodies that had been pulled out of the rubble laying dead in the sidewalk ... many others injured.'
Twitter user fredodupoux (http://twitter.com/fredodupoux) confirmed the worst: 'Dead bodies are everywhere. I haven't seen one ambulance or any professional medical care anywhere in Port-au- Prince.'