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I’ve been following the role social networking have played since the Haitian earthquake struck Tuesday. Internet reaction to the quake began surging within an hour after disaster struck. This Internet-driven information tidal wave is is still rolling today. Statistics provide the latest proof that when big news hits, more people use the Internet and social networks to get news, filter it and interact at a more personal level.
On the Facebook side:
As of Sunday, the EARTHQUAKE HAITI Facebook page has registered almost 242,000 members since late Tuesday. The page was established as an informational page to allow everyone to share general comments, relevant information, to help find family members in Haiti, and guide everyone in donating only to legitimate relief organizations. Two other Facebook related disaster relief pages ( SUPPORT THE VICTIMS OF THE EARTHQUAKE IN HAITI and For Each Member Who Joins I Will Donate $.05 to Haiti Earthquake Victims) have drawn more than 240,000 new members.
On Sunday, more than 21,600 people had registered with a special Red Cross Web site to help people search for their loved ones. The Web site of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) enables people in Haiti and abroad to search for and register the names of relatives missing since the earthquake.
Flickr has thousands of Haitian earthquake photos being posted by amateur and professional photographers. This includes an amazing Flickr slideshow that reveals in powerful, visual detail the widespread impact of the earthquake. These are the best images I have seen thus far of the disaster.
Text messaging has also been an emerging tool for those wishing to donate money to the Haitian earthquake relief efforts. As of Friday evening, more than $11-million had been donated by people via text messaging campaigns such as those coordinated by the American Red Cross ( text the word ‘Haiti’ to 90999 to donate $10 ) or the Yele Foundation, (text the word ‘Yéle’ to 501501 to donate $5). Possible warning on Yele Foundation.
Keep in mind that texting donations in this manner may mean the money won’t transfer from many wireless carriers to Haitian relief efforts until users pay their cellphone bills.
TV News organizations, anchors and reporters have had varying degress of success using Twitter. Those who can maintain contact are giving some of the most current details about what’s unfolding on the ground in Haiti. What surprises me is that they can all broadcast via TV to the outside world, but some (Katie Couric from CBS, Bill Hemmer from Fox News, NBC’s Brian Williams and ABC’s Diane Sawyer ) have had little, if any, contact with viewers using their Twitter accounts, if they have one at all.
- Lester Holt
Zscaler, a security service for Web traffic, pulled the numbers for unique URLs visited with the word ‘haiti’ in the URL string for January 11 and then for January 12. It calculated a 1578% increase in URLs visited with a corresponding 5407% increase in bandwidth usage for ‘haiti’ URLs. Zscaler also warns that it has seen malware and fraud taking advantage of the disaster. (More on that here)
“Not surprisingly we have seen an increase of Web transactions to charity / donation sites – including some domains that were registered immediately following the earthquake, for example, haitifoundation.com,” said Zscaler’s Web site on Thursday.
According to a 2009 International Telecommunication Union profile, about 10 percent of Haiti’s population are Internet users. Four percent of Haiti’s households have computers and two percent of the nation’s households have Internet access. There is virtually no broadband Internet access in the country. Haiti has slightly more than one fixed telephone line and roughly 33 mobile cellular subscribers for every 100 inhabitants,
Some ingenuity has played a role here. Despite Haiti losing most of its electricity and Internet access, much of the first, and now on-going information to emerge from the country have come via Web sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube.
- Some individuals and relief organizations have portable, self-generated electricity and are to maintain Internet access.
- Others had satellite phones or other satellite links allowing them to bypass Haiti’s badly damaged electrical grid and get messages to the outside world.
- Web-based phone systems, like Skype, have also allowed reporters, relief organizations, families and friends in Haiti to maintain communications with the rest of the world.
- The ability to send and post text messages requires much less transmission bandwidth. This may turn out to be the most relied upon form of communication in the early stages of this crisis.
On the Twitter side today:
The “Help Haiti” OR #Haiti” Twitter disaster relief page was averaging roughly 238 tweets a minute Thursday morning. This has been an even bigger response than Twitter saw with the Iranian election riots last year. Twitter founder and former UNL student Evan Williams tweeted on Tuesday- “Across all metrics that matter, yesterday was Twitter’s highest-usage day ever. (And today will be bigger.) ” By Friday morning, the tweet flow was down to roughly 65 tweets a minutes on the Twitter disaster relief page.
Clearly something important is happening here. Social networking and the Internet continue to emerge as big players for those seeking information and offering to assist on this disaster