Boston Marathon: The importance of the Internet in a national crisis
When a crisis hits, the internet is at the forefront of communication and platforms such as Twitter, YouTube and Google are being utilised more and more in emergency situations.
When explosions were first heard at the finish line of the Boston Marathon yesterday (15th April 2013) news was spread primarily through the use of real-time platforms while traditional media trailed in their distribution.
Quick digital response to the situation also helped those in need find help and spread news at a pace unimaginable only five years ago.
Twitter played a big part in news distribution from the very start of the story:
The first tweet from a large influencer came from local source The Boston Globe
BREAKING NEWS: Two powerful explosions detonated in quick succession right next to the Boston Marathon finsh line this afternoon.
— The Boston Globe (@BostonGlobe) April 15, 2013
The Mayor’s Office was the next to make comment:
Please avoid area of Copley Square to allow first reponders to work.
— City of Boston (@NotifyBoston) April 15, 2013
As well as the official Boston Police Department Twitter account:
— Boston Police Dept. (@Boston_Police) April 15, 2013
And the Boston Fire Department:
Words cannot describe the professionalism shown today by many, many local, state and federal agencies. Solid work by all.
— Boston Fire Dept. (@BostonFire) April 16, 2013
As usual, images were shared across the web but main news sites were using those that had originated via Twitter using mobile devices at the scene:
— Superman (@SupermanTweets) April 16, 2013
The use of Twitter seems to now also mean the use of its six second video making app Vine.
The most viral Vine video seems to be this one that captures the scene:
— Nick Miroff (@NickMiroff) April 15, 2013
Eric Cantor, Republican politician even tweeted a Vine video observing a moment’s silence for the victims:
The House observed a moment of silence for the victims and the city of Boston. vine.co/v/bFDJmAEBPrM
— Eric Cantor (@GOPLeader) April 15, 2013
One of the most encouraging uses of social media in a crisis is always the way that people band together and offer help to strangers in their hour of need. Almost instantly the hashtag #bostonhelp was born as concerned citizens offered meals, aid and even their homes to people who may be in need.
open wifi, place to charge cell, or just don’t want to be alone, food and drinks,- pay only if you can #bostonhelp
— El Pelon Taqueria (@ElPelonTaqueria) April 15, 2013
— Audrey Stuck-Girard (@TheAudgePodge) April 15, 2013
Very comfortable queen size bed available in Charlestown for anyone who needs it. Dinner, breakfast, we’ll drive to you #bostonhelp
— Vino Incognito (@vinoincognito) April 15, 2013
— Isaac Naor (@IsaacNaor) April 16, 2013
YouTube have created a spotlight channel for the crisis. The channel’s name is Explosions at the Boston Marathon and can be found here:
The channel gives a brief description of the situation and has pulled together all relevant news stories as well as amateur videos on the subject.
Google Person Finder
Google have again launched their Person Finder service. It was first created in the wake of the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 and allows anyone to input information about missing people.