Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Chinese whispers go Digital

I saw a tweet at 2 am a couple of nights back. A friend tweeted saying that people were throwing stones on the streets of Bandra and that she had a scary ride home. Soon there were others tweeting about 'riots/ stone throwing' on the streets of Bandra and Khar and asked people to stay home. Some wondered about the relevance of asking people to 'stay home' at 2 AM. But this is Mumbai. I retweeeted some of these tweets too.

Then I switched on the TV. All the English news channels were showing repeats from the Grammy Award ceremonies from earlier in the day. Even the ticker didn't mention the stone throwing incidents. Ditto for Aaj Taak, the only Hindi channel I could think of. This was twenty minutes after the tweets started.

No surprises that the newspapers didn't mention this the next morning. But 2 AM was well after papers were put to bed.

I guess news travels fastest on social networks these days. Within that, possibly on Twitter. I didn't see a mention of the disturbances at Facebook. Which, of course, could be a function of Facebook groups being closed or limited ones. At Twitter you have access to a larger world.

There is another angle to this. Next afternoon I saw that someone retweeted a tweet on the Bandra riots. Many of us windered whether the riots were happening again. Some tweeted asking about this.

Turned out that the person, a friend of mine, intially didn't realise that the tweet was from the previous night. The moment she realised she sent a tweet explaining the mistake.

I guess social media could be a good cop. And a bad cop too. Potentially explosive in the hands of those who want to spread rumours.

The story doesn't end here. Turns out that the the street agitation was in protest against a hate page on Facebook.

Social Networks can shock. And awe.

Ask Grandpa Mubarak.