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Twitter proves that being loud doesn't always correlate with being smart

By Kathy Heslop

April 18, 2013 | 3 min read

Did you follow the news of the unfolding Boston tragedy on TV or on Twitter?

Polling a group of people at Ve has revealed that Twitter was the medium of choice here. The magnetic immediacy of its first hand accounts and unfiltered commentary being the draw, as the reality of the dreadful situation at the marathon finish-line emerged. Within 55 minutes of being tweeted, @doug_lorman’s vine of the explosion had been reposted over 15,700 times and seen by over 35,000 people. Unfiltered automatically implies authenticity.

However, Simon Ricketts in The Guardian this week made a rather pertinent observation on the contextualisation of Twitter where he described how the funnel of news, “getting all the information about a certain news story poured into it – from the top,” which includes “wild rumours and hard facts. Witness accounts alongside back-of-a-cigarette packet theories,” led to rapid theories about who the casualties were, conflicting reports of how many had died, who the perpetrators were, other explosions happening in the city, Patriot Day conspiracy theories, and even scam fundraising accounts too. All before anything could even be officially verified. Meanwhile I watched appalled as a histrionic and particularly venomous Twitter spat evolved between two normally dignified Tweeters - all in the context of the marathon tragedy!

Thank goodness then that Twitter also proved its tremendous capacity for broadcasting humanitarian offensives and uniting local people trying desperately to help, as well as supporting the wider efforts of organisations like The Red Cross. The company itself gave up its top advertising spot ($200,000 value), so that users could see inspiring messages sent to and from #OneBoston.

Twitter will always be a brilliant and compelling platform for news to be broken on, and it absolutely has the ability to stitch people and communities together, but once again the medium proved that, just as in real life, just being loud doesn't always correlate with being smart.

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