The Role Social Media Played In The Japanese Quake
The public of the world, businesses as well as news agencies around the globe turned towards social media giant Twitter for the latest up to date news of the quake, while Google immediately set up a search site to help locate lost people. This when the entire world became instant witnesses to the largest earthquake in Japan’s history, an 8.9 magnitude quake and the subsequent tsunami that sent crashing 30 foot waves wiping away entire towns in its path.
What was taken away was entire farmlands that took generations to build, as well as complete city streets that were swept away as cars and boats tumbled like micro toys in a bath tub. The tragedy became instant viewing because of how suddenly as well as how vividly the news and images spread worldwide via the Internet.
There were instantaneous firsthand account videos which showed buildings being toppled over by the force of water that sprang up on YouTube within hours after the event. Twitter lit up faster than the 30 Rock Christmas tree as multiple sources pointed to the news reports and videos.
Google, which commands over 34% percent of the search traffic in Japan, responded more like a primary news source by taking full advantage of their Google Crisis Response page. While the Red Cross indicated they would not be able to accept any further inquiries regarding locating family members, Google set up their ‘People Finder Page,’ allowing anyone to type in the person’s name that they were looking for.
Twitter Plays A Huge Role
The most amazing part was how quick the actual ‘real time’ footage of everything that was happening appeared on the Internet, clearly ahead of what traditional news outlets were able to provide. According to a source that tracks ‘trending terms’ on Twitter, the single word “earthquake” reached close to 20,000 tweets per hour when the earthquake initially struck and peaked to over 35,000 queries on Twitter per hour as more and more people were becoming aware of what happened. By late March 11th, there were a total of 245,000+ “earthquake” Twitter posts that were posted.
But as to be expected, there were numerous tweeters who began putting out false rumor based on secondhand reports and sources. But the beauty of Twitter is that anyone can read it and then can immediately verify if it’s true or not based on it’s origin.
The instantaneous social response became almost animated within an hour after the news of the earthquake hit the world’s media outlets. Numerous legitimate websites such as, SXSW4Japan.org quickly appeared online, which provides for quick unbiased information on the tragedy.
Information On The Ground
The tsunami struck within minutes after the earthquake hit off the North Eastern coast of Japan, and although the country’s largest cities Tokyo and Osaka were hardly affected, major industries were struck hard. According to reports, the majority of the major manufacturers has halted production, including car manufacturers, Toyota, Nissan, Honda and Subaru, as well as Sony and Sapporo amongst others. Most by Friday afternoon reported that their employees were safe, and most of the offices fared well despite the devastating magnitude.
News Of The World
News of the earthquake hit North American airwaves in the early morning hours of March 11, right before most were heading off to work. The multiple sources that captured the quake and tsunami on video, as well as the majority of the major news outlets did not offer a live stream of their coverage anywhere on the Web, where people could of watch from their office internet connections.
Instead there were ‘offshore’ news sites that quickly began showing live streams of Japan’s devastation in ‘real time’ on their websites. These sites were able to do so since they were completely free and clear of any contractual legal obligations.
This is unlike restricted outlets such as BBC, which cannot communicate outside of their own borders. When it comes down to the mainstream traditional news networks, they are also contractually obligated to just broadcast only through cable, satellite and through their affiliates, which may not include the Web.